NIOSH has issued its report in the May 7, 2009 explosion at the Penn Mar Shopping Center in Prince George’s County, Maryland that left eight firefighters and a gas company employee injured. The blast, fueled by natural gas, was captured on a camera mounted on the dash of one of the rigs parked near Side A of the structure.
Here is an excerpt from the reports findings:
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should
- ensure that standard operating guidelines for natural gas leaks are understood and followed
- contact utility companies (natural gas and electric) immediately to cut external supply/power to structures when gas leaks are suspected
- ensure gas monitoring equipment is adequately maintained and fire fighters are routinely trained on proper use
- ensure ventilation techniques are conducted after ignition sources are mitigated
- ensure that rapid intervention teams are staged at the onset of an incident
- ensure that collapse/explosion control zones are established when dealing with a potential explosion hazard
Although there is no evidence that the following recommendations would have prevented these injuries, they are being provided as a reminder of good safety practices.
- provide manual personal alert safety system (PASS) or tracking devices to locate potentially missing fire fighters when SCBA are not utilized
- ensure standard operating guidelines for communications are understood by dispatch
- ensure adequate staffing for emergency medical services and rapid intervention teams (RITs)
- ensure training is evaluated for rank and skill levels across the combination department personnel