Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 14:37:11 -0500
Reply-To: Yung Morgan <pmorgan**At_Symbol_Here**EHS.UMASS.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Yung Morgan <pmorgan**At_Symbol_Here**EHS.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: FW: Aftermath of a fire
Dear members,
 Here are a few of the answers I got back from the DCHAS group to my
question re: what needed to be done after a fire in the lab:
1. My question: 
Dear members,
I like to ask any idea from the group about what to do in the aftermath of a
fire. Do you have a certain set of protocols you make all personnel go
through before the lab or space can be cleared for reoccupation?  Do you ask
for a thorough clean up by the department? How about air and surface
 Recently one of our biology labs had a fire from an oven which overheated
to 500 F with some plastic which was left in with the glassware. The fire
which resulted blew out black soot throughout the lab and into adjoining
bathrooms though the vent system. Our group responded with the local fire
department who put out the fire and went in to investigate the fire without
any respiration protection. The researcher and her group were in the lab
cleaning out all the sooty glassware with only dust masks given to them by
the custodial staff who refused to go in. They were not too happy when we
made them clear the lab for a few days whereby a contractor was brought in
at the PI expense to hepa-vacuum the area( including the adjoining
bathrooms).Another consultant  was also brought in for wipe samples and air
samples for VOCs and particulates. We let the group occupy the lab as soon
as surface samples were taken as they can open the windows but not the small
interior office where all graduate students congregated. The lab was then
cleared for reoccupying after I have a verbal confirmation from the lab that
all samples have below detection level. It took about a week for the lab to
be reoccupied. 
My questions: 
1.       Is this overkill? 
2.       What do other institutions do in the aftermath of fires? Spills of
hazardous materials? 
3.       How about your fire response group? do they have a procedure to
reenter the area with respiration protection?   
Any thoughts or comments you all may have would be helpful to rewrite our
fire and spills responses procedures. Thanks in advance. 
2. From Ralf Stuart,UVM:  
1.  >1.      Is this overkill?
> >2.        What do other institutions do in the aftermath of fires? Spills
> Hazardous materials?
Whether the lab people like it or not, it's the institution's responsibility
to make the determinations of where it's safe to work and environmental
sampling is an important step in doing this.  
Environmental sampling takes time. At this point, the Burlington Fire
Department takes this very seriously and won't release the building back to
us until we've made a determination that it's ok. This is based on our fire
this spring.
> >3.        How about your fire response group? Do they have a procedure
> reenter the area with respiration protection?
For our fire this May, the clean up in smoke affected areas was conducted by
a hazmat team. Most of the building was flood-affected and ServPro cleaned
that up using their standard PPE. This was after I had reviewed the building
and delineated which was fire affected and which were flood affected.
Department people did collect stuff from flood affected areas, but not fire
affected areas. The fire affected areas were badly enough damaged that the
lab people weren't interested in collected materials from them.
The challenge, of course, is communicating with the occupants about what is
required in terms of down time when they're entirely focused on getting
their work restarted. EHS needs to be supported by academic administration
for that to work well. So far we haven't had a problem with that.
Let me know if you have any questions about this.
- Ralph
3. From Harry Elston:
I was always told that when you go to build a house, talk to the folks that
have already done it.  
A quick check of "fires" on the Safety Listserv will show two recent ones
and I suggest you ask those folks directly.  In the last few years, those
fires would have been University of California (Irvine, I believe) and
University of Vermont.  I would find the EH&S folks and talk with them
directly on what went right and what went wrong and learn from them.
Remember, it is always better to learn from a horrible example than to be
one.  The UCI fire was very extensive and the after-fire clean up huge.
Univ. Vermont's fire was smaller, but there are still lessons to be learned
from there as well.
Good luck.
4. From Monona Rossol:

Not over-kill at all.  The "VOCs"  you want to look at should be PAHs
considering the type of fire.  Usually air sampling is not needed since the
soot settles down pretty hard.   And this soot and debris is why fire
fighters in 23 states are given automatic workers compensation for a number
of types of cancer.  Those biology people need training as much as the art
people do.  They should know this. 

The people cleaning the area should be suited up and trained.  If the soot
flies, they should be wearing respirators.  If it is firmly on the surfaces,
this may not be necessary.  Usually a combination of HEPA vacuuming and wet
cleaning are need to get the stuff off.
5. From John Krekoski:
On our campus the Risk Management Office has a huge say in this type of
event.  We are a state university and the state risk management office
oversees what happens on the campus.  In a case like you've described, our
campus health and safety team and risk manager, along with a contracted
insurance adjuster, would survey the lab.  Indeed, we would probably need to
chase out the lab staff.  However, we would allow the lab group to help with
the clean up once it it is determined safe to do so.  In one actual case,
involving non-hazardous chemicals, the benchwork was badly burned so only
our carpenters and facilities repair staff were allowed to enter the lab
(after the EHS folks determined there was no chemical hazard based on air
and surface samples).  
Unfortunately, we don't have any written protocols that we could share with
6.  from Harry Hall,MD 
Acutely, with burning/smoldering plastics I'd be concerned about release of
airborne cyanide.  While cyanide persists in air for >100 days, rapid
dispersion and thus dilution occurs and this hazard is rapidly gone.
However, the FD should certainly have made this initial entry wearing SCBA
(which is standard procedure in most departments).  I'll leave the rest of
your questions to others who do clean-up work.
Alan H. Hall, M.D.
Medical Toxicologist
7. From Rebecca Lally,UCI 
Harry andYung,
Yung sounds like you did the right thing. After our fire in 2001, we
performed extensive sampling to assist us in our risk assessment since all
the state regulators were on our campus and needed to see the results before
we could reoccupy the building. The bigger question that always surfaces is
how clean is clean.  The difficulty is what to do with the data you've
collected if there are no regulatory standards.
I do have a standing protocol similar to yours depending on the size and
content of the fire; part of the sampling strategy is collect baseline data
from a similar building that is not involved by the fire.
Again, thank you so much for all who responded. It was very helpful to get
different perspectives and experiences. 
Best wishes for a great (and safe) Holiday season! .  
Yung Morgan, MsPH
Chemical Safety
Industrial Hygiene Services
Environmental Health and Safety
117 Draper hall
UMASS,Amherst MA 01003
phone (413)  545-2682
Fax  (413) 545-2600
email : pmorgan**At_Symbol_Here**

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