Software tracks chemical data
Volume 24, No. 1
Firefighters race to an overturned tanker truck exploding in flames. Initial reports are that the truck contains molten sulfur, a highly toxic and highly combustible material.
First responders keep their distance for fear of what the truck contains. It is not until fire fighters get close enough to see the rear placard on that tanker truck that they realized the vehicle contained gasoline, not sulfur.
Identification placards are of the utmost importance in a situation like this. But what if the contents are not common combustibles such as gasoline, but some complicated hazardous material indicated on the placard by an unknown code or strange symbol.
Enter HazGuide Software Solutions. HazGuide is the nation's first fully integrated and searchable software application that cross-references chemical information taken from all major hazardous materials chemical guides. Rather than rely on guides published as books or CD-ROMs, HazGuide combines the necessary resources into an organized, simple format.
Information is taken from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Pocket Guide, Emergency Response Guidebook, U.S. Fire Administration HazMat Guide, Coast Guard Chemical Hazards Response Information System Guide and Materials Safety Data Sheets database.
Jay Couture, HazGuide vice president for sales and marketing, said the software is designed for an initial response situation at the scene or for use by either the dispatcher or incident commander. In response, the software provides the user with information such as the best emergency medical treatment or recommended action emergency response to control the situation, he said.
"The user might enter a partial chemical name or a DOT placard number or a UN or CAS number," Couture said. "Any one of those initial pieces of information will then pull up all the resources that relate to that chemical."
CAS (Chemical Abstract Services) registry numbers are unique numerical identifiers for chemical compounds, polymers, biological sequences, mixtures and alloys. United Nations numbers or UN IDs are four-digit numbers that identify hazardous substances, and articles (such as explosives, flammable liquids, toxic substances, etc.) in the framework of international transport.
With great speed and efficiency, responders can identify chemical reactions, review respirator recommendations, quickly access procedures and recommendations for chemical classes and determine chemical properties such as flash point, boiling point and lower explosion limits.
Each of the cross referenced resources has its own specific focus, he said. The NIOSH Pocket Guide advises on exposure limits and safe distances from various toxic spills. The Emergency Response Guidebook is a Department of Transporation publication that provides raw data on spill response."
"The ERG tells you what kind of SCBA or protective gear to wear with certain chemicals," Couture said.
MSDS has similar information but also identifies chemicals by their street names, odor and color.
HazGuide is designed to operate independently, relying neither on network connections nor Internet connectivity. Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina show that network based solutions are not always reliable.
"HazGuide operates from a notebook or laptop computer at the scene," Couture said. "It could also operate from a desk top computer at the dispatch center or central command. The key ingredient is that it is not a network based piece of software."
At present, 80 different emergency response users employ nearly 300 HazGuide units nationwide.
"Some users have multiple copies," Couture said. "For instance, Washington , D.C. , has equipped the Capital Police with it. In New York City , the police detectives special ops unit has it. Our clients range from small volunteer fire departments to large city organizations."
Visit HazGuide at Booth 43 of the IFW Expo.