Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 11:27:28 -0500
Reply-To: Margaret Rakas <mrakas**At_Symbol_Here**EMAIL.SMITH.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Margaret Rakas <mrakas**At_Symbol_Here**EMAIL.SMITH.EDU>
Subject: Re: FW: Aftermath of a fire
Comments: To: Yung Morgan
In-Reply-To: <001201c840e4$37fb8210$f4637780**At_Symbol_Here**>

Hello Yung, Thank you for summarizing all of your responses. It is always helpful for those of us at PUI's to see how the 'big guys' handle these issues...just one more bullet (point) in the "I'm not paranoid, things have changed in 20 years" arsenal of persuasion ("Do you REALLY want to do it that way, 'cause...") Happy holidays to all, Margaret Margaret A. Rakas, Ph.D. Manager, Inventory & Regulatory Affairs Clark Science Center Smith College Northampton, MA. 01063 p: 413-585-3877 f: 413-585-3786 >>> Yung Morgan 12/17/2007 2:37 PM >>> 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 samples? 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? No. > > >2. What do other institutions do in the aftermath of fires? Spills of > 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 to? > 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: Yung, 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 you. 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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