Friday, November 4, 2011

Hazmat Team Responds to Incidents

HazMat Team responds to two calls
On Thursday, November 3, 2011

At 12:18pm, the Chester County Hazardous Materials Response Team was dispatched to assist the Phoenixville Fire Department for a hazardous materials incident.  Crews arrived to find a freezer unit in the Giant Food Stores on Nutt Road leaking Freon.  The Fire Department was able to stop the leak and begin ventilating the store.  HazMat crews monitored the air inside the building to ensure a safe space for employees and shoppers to return.  12 members of the team responded and operated for about two hours.

Freon is a very dangerous chemical.  It is a colorless, odorless, nonflammable and noncorrosive.  It can displace oxygen, which in a small area can be deadly.  In May, a man was killed and three others were seriously injured as a result of a Freon leak in Charlestown Township.  Freon was commonly used as a refrigerant, although it is becoming less common being replaced with more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

The team’s second call for the day was to assist the West Grove Fire Company for what appeared to be an unconscious person in a vehicle.  The caller smelled chemicals so, as a precaution, the Hazardous Materials Response Team was dispatched.  It was feared that the person in the vehicle had committed suicide using chemicals.  Fortunately, he was okay and the matter was turned over to the police. 

Chester County has had its fair share of chemical suicides.  In October, a man killed himself by mixing two chemicals together in a vehicle in Pennsbury.  In December, another man did the same thing in West Chester.  Chemical suicides have plagued the United States since 2008, and continue to be on the rise.  As of November 1, 2010, there had been 29 chemical suicides in the United States.  This kind of suicide can be very dangerous to responders and the public.  Most of the time the person will post a sign warning those nearby that it is dangerous and they should call 9-1-1.  These easily recognizable signs occur in about 90% of the incidents.  There are however, the not so easily recognizable incidents where there are no signs and little in the way of clues.  This is where everyone needs to have a heightened sense of awareness.

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