From: Frank Coppo <Frank.T.Coppo**At_Symbol_Here**GSK.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] pull fire alarm for chemical spills?
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 17:48:52 +0000
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: C0972A45C7DC7040BB5D18BB89552EA10BBE47AF**At_Symbol_Here**019-SN2MPN1-063.019D.MGD.MSFT.NET

Dear Colleagues -

Prior to installation of a dedicated evacuation alarm system (separate from the fire stations), we had a simple alert system involving hand-held air horns in one of our facilities (this was a large open lab; aprox. 20,000 sq. ft.). These air horns were kept under the hand wash sinks adjacent to the lab access doors. The thinking was, in case of a spill, sound the horn on your way out to alert the other lab residents to an issue they may not be aware of elsewhere in the big lab.

Not very fancy, but it was effective ;)

Best regards,

Frank T Coppo, ASP
EH&S Specialist
HR Centres of Excellence

1250 S. Collegeville Road, Collegeville, Pennsylvania, 19426-0989, United States
Email Frank.T.Coppo**At_Symbol_Here**
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From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Allen Niemi
Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11:56 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] pull fire alarm for chemical spills?

Heather, I do not believe your statement is universally true for all locations and buildings (certainly not for many of our buildings). Ideally, there should be a separate evacuation alarm for fires and for other types of emergencies but we only have one alarm system in most of our buildings. Our default policy is to avoid using the fire alarm for chemical spills for many good reasons. However, there are some specific situations where that would be exactly the correct thing to do. Some of these have already been mentioned.

On Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 11:07 AM, Heather McCollor wrote:
It is my belief that pulling the fire alarm will change the airflow system in the building to help contain the fumes within the room while others are evacuating.
Heather McCollor

On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 4:22 PM, Strode, Kyle wrote:
The Risk Management Committee at my college is revamping our "Emergency Protocol Guide" for campus. Regarding chemical spills, they have asked me what should be on the chart when there is a chemical spill.

One member suggested that when a large spill occurs, the person should pull the fire alarm. Even for a pretty nasty spill, I am uncomfortable with that recommendation. I am worried that
.. the fire department will be summoned for moderate-large spills of innocuous chemicals
.. the FD will come for very small spills of hazardous chemicals, when the actual danger is pretty low
As a relatively new CHO, it seems to me that for chemical spills, the protocol would be to have a person call the FD if a chemistry professor determines that it is necessary.

In my teaching career, we have only had one nasty spill (boiling nitric acid spilled out of the hood and everyone started choking), which we mitigated by evacuating the lab and waiting until the lab ventilation system cleaned most of it out. Then we went in and mopped it up with bicarbonate.

I am interested in your thoughts, advice or experiences.


Kyle Strode
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Carroll College
1601 N. Benton Ave.
Helena, MT 59625-0002
(406) 447-5564

Heather McCollor
Laboratory Materials Supervisor
Macalester College
1600 Grand Ave
St Paul, MN 55105

NAOSMM past-president Aug 2013-Aug 2015

Allen Niemi, PhD
Occupational Safety and Health Services
Room 322 Lakeshore Center
Michigan Technological University
Phone: 906-487-2118
Fax: 906-487-3048

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