Carbon Monoxide - Silent and Deadly

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas. It’s also a very toxic one. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell, CO can kill someone before they are even aware they are being exposed to it. Lower levels of exposure to CO can cause symptoms which many times are mistaken for the flu - headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.

In Atlanta, GA, 500 students at an elementary school had to be evacuated when it was discovered a faulty boiler was leaking CO. Forty-two students and seven adults needed to be treated because of the gas exposure.  Stephanie Hon, of the Georgia Poison Center, told WSPA News that the levels of carbon monoxide fire officials found at the school, 1,700 parts per million, can be deadly over a period of time. Normal levels of carbon monoxide reaches levels of about nine parts-per-million. According to Superintendent Erroll Davis, the school has no carbon monoxide detectors.

A Best Western Hotel in Greensburg KS evacuated guests when high levels of CO were discovered in the pool and lobby area. A local 4-H group of children and parents were attending a Christmas party at the hotel, and several of them complained of severe headaches and nausea. The fire department was called and they discovered the gas leak coming from the hotel pool’s heater. Kiowa County Memorial Hospital Administrator Mary Sweet told St. John News the hospital treated 34 people for symptoms relating to the leak.

Another deadly disaster was averted in Warren, Ohio when a gas leak was discovered at the Trumbull County YMCA. Clients who were at the facility working out began to complain of lightheadedness. The building was evacuated of all employees and clients. Firefighters tested the levels and found the CO level at 942 parts-per-million.

Emergency Film Group’s CO: Response to Carbon Monoxide Incidents DVD training program provides training to firefighters, industrial fire teams, EMTs, police, poison control center personnel, plant safety personnel and others who may be called upon to respond to an incident involving carbon monoxide. To learn more, read here. . .


Carbon Monoxide leak Children being evacuated from an Atlanta school after the detection of a carbon monoxide leak.


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Train Accidents Can be Toxic

According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, there were 7,232 train accidents between the years of 2009 and 2012. Causes of these accidents include derailments, collisions, accidents at railroad grade crossings and obstructions. In most incidents, the damage caused by the accident is minor. But a derailed train can pose serious health or environmental problems when tank cars filled with dangerous substances are ruptured, burn, or the contents spilled.

Recently, a derailed train in Paulsboro, N.J. caused the evacuation of 50 homes and sent more than 40 people to the hospital, complaining of breathing problems. The freight train, with two locomotives, 82 freight cars and a caboose, derailed on an old-style swing bridge that apparently buckled and sent four of the tank cars in a creek below, leaving  other cars dangling off the bridge.

One of the cars in the water was carrying ethanol. The three others were carrying vinyl chloride, a flammable liquid. The crash tore open a 1-by-3-foot hole in one of them. At 400 ppm in air, vinyl chloride can cause breathing problems and dizziness. At 12000 ppm those exposed for as little as ten minutes could experience life threatening health effects. The Lower flammable Limit for vinyl chloride is 3800 ppm. Hundreds of responders were needed to clean up the accident site.

In another recent incident, responders in Wayne Township, PA, were notified of a possible hazardous chemical spill from a five car train derailment. One of the cars contained isobutylene, a flammable gas.  Isobutylene is easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames capable of forming explosive mixtures with air. Vapors are initially heavier than air and can spread along the ground, possibly causing dizziness or asphyxiation without warning. There was no release or spill from any of the cars, and no injuries reported for the train crew or emergency responders.

Every community needs to have a plan for these types of incidents. Emergency Film Group has developed the Protective Actions: Evacuation/Shelter In Place training program for emergency response personnel: incident commanders, police officers, emergency management personnel, National Guard troops, hazmat teams, firefighters, security personnel, dispatchers, emergency operations center personnel, and others who might be involved in ordering or carrying out protective actions. To learn more, read here. . .


Derailed train A derailed train can pose serious health or environmental problems when tank cars filled with dangerous substances are ruptured, burn, or the contents spilled.
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Six Million Pounds of Illegally Stored Explosives Forces Evacuation of Entire Town

An entire town in Louisiana was recently evacuated after officials discovered six million pounds of explosive material they say were being stored illegally. The 800 residents of Doyline were put under a voluntary evacuation order for several days, with kids out of school and some people living at camp sites in a nearby state park.

The explosives were discovered last October, when fire officials were called to a blast at Explo Systems’ northern Louisiana facility, located at Camp Minden. As authorities began investigating that explosion, they discovered an estimated 6 million pounds of a propellant called M6 haphazardly stored. Boxes were stacked in buildings, some were packed into long corridors that connect the buildings and more were found stashed outside. Many of the containers were spilling open.

The evacuation was necessary because authorities feared that ignition of any of the propellant could set off a massive chain reaction that would race through the corridors and blow up multiple buildings, threatening the town.

This isn’t the first time Explo Systems has come under scrutiny for their handling of explosive materials. A series of at least 10 explosions at its current location in 2006 caused an evacuation of Doyline, shutting down Interstate 20 and forcing officials to move students to schools in a nearby town.

The company also came under scrutiny in West Virginia where it was using an old military explosive called tetryl in mountaintop removal mining for Catenary Coal Co. in 2006 and 2007. A February 2007 blast injured one worker and exposed others to toxins. Some of the tetryl dated back to 1940.

Explo Systems leased the property at Camp Minden from the National Guard. According to a report on KTBS News, the company was so far behind in their rent, the National Guard refused to lease the company anymore space.  The State Police is investigating the company for possible criminal charges.

Safe Storage of Explosive Materials, the DVD training program that Emergency Film Group produced for the Institute of Makers of Explosives (, is designed to assist manufacturers, distributors and users of commercial explosives in conforming to Federal Regulations and recommended practices. This film may also assist public safety personnel who might respond to a situation involving explosives. To learn more, read here. .  .


Six Million Lbs of Expolsives Aerial shot of facility where 6 million pounds of explosives were being illegally stored.
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"I want something that will satisfy OSHA's requirements."

by Gordon Massingham, President, Emergency Film Group

 "I want something that will satisfy OSHA's requirements. I want to be able to show them the tape, have them take a test, and they will be certified."

It's the kind of request we get all too often here at Emergency Film Group. When we tell these callers that we don't have anything like that, and that neither does anyone else, some callers hang up in disgust. Maybe they go on calling other companies like ours. Maybe some disreputable salesperson from another company sells the caller a video-based program. Maybe the caller is pleased that he now has found "compliance-only training." Or, at least pleased until OSHA comes to call.


OSHA's standards for general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart L, 1910.120, and 1910.156 which cover fire brigades and response to hazardous materials emergencies are very clear about training requirements.

The employer must provide training, "commensurate with those duties and functions that fire brigade members are expected to perform." Further, the employer must assure that each member of the fire brigade is able to perform "assigned duties and functions satisfactorily and in a safe manner so as not to endanger the fire brigade members or other employees." Finally, the employers must inform the fire brigade members of any special hazards that exist and develop "written procedures that describe the actions to be taken in situations involving the special hazards and shall include these in the training and education program."

So unless you have a training video that is custom designed and site specific, no video is going to train your plant emergency response team to OSHA's requirements. Even then it is doubtful that the video alone can provide the training.

When you talk about emergency response you are talking about matters, potentially of life and death. No video is going to train a fire fighter to operate a pump, don chemical protective clothing, or proportion foam. Training an emergency responder requires an instructor- someone competent and experienced. It usually requires some classroom work, and some hands-on training in the field- at least some of which should be under simulated emergency conditions. In other words, if you expect an emergency responder to carry out a task, you better be sure that the emergency responder had competency-based training and you better keep records.

Does that mean there is no role for video? We hope there is. But at the Emergency Film Group, we design our videos and the books that accompany them as training aids for the instructor. First, we provide some compelling visuals that otherwise wouldn't be available to the instructor. Secondly, through extensive research and by constant review by leading professionals in the field, we provide eight or ten of the most important lessons to be learned about the subject- with emphasis on safety and good management. So the video might be used as an introduction to the subject, or as a review. But showing the video, no matter how good it is, and doing nothing else, will not put you in compliance.

We can't provide all your training for you, but as our motto says, we can provide "training tools for an increasingly complex and dangerous job."

Gordon Massingham has produced most of the training programs in the Emergency Film Group catalog and has been responsible for creating more than 150 emergency response training programs during the past 25 years. In 2004 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Note: Although we can’t satisfy all your OSHA training requirements, Emergency Film Group has dozens of video-based training programs that are designed to the latest OSHA and NFPA standards

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Radiation Monitoring

Using radiation monitoring equipment In a scene from 'Radiation Monitoring' emergency personnel sample for radiation.

Radiation Monitoring is a DVD-based training package recently produced by Emergency Film Group. This film with accompanying Instructor CD-Rom prepares emergency personnel to protect themselves and their communities during incidents in which radiation may be present. It follows the guidelines of ASTM-2601, Standard Practice for Radiological Emergency Response, and was reviewed by a technical committee of experts in monitoring and response.

This package would be an ideal outreach to communities in which nuclear energy plants are located. Nuclear personnel with the responsibility of working with local emergency management agencies could use this as a resource for training emergency responders  who would be responsible for operating radiation equipment in the event of an incident.

Scenarios covered by the film include terrorism, industrial accidents, natural disasters, and transportation mishaps. It examines dosimeters, radiation pagers and radiation detectors and shows how to interpret results. Also covered:  health effects of chronic and acute exposure to radiation, understanding exposure measurements and limits, protective clothing & equipment, incident size-up and decontamination.

The Instructor’s CD-Rom has a Powerpoint presentation that closely follows the film, a second Powerpoint presentation devoted to the Inverse Square Law, a number of documents that relate to the topic that can be downloaded and printed as handouts, and a post-seminar quiz.

This package can be ordered at

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