National Academies Press: OpenBook

Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles (2005)

Chapter: Chapter Eight - Conclusions

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Page 40
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Eight - Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23328.
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Page 40
Page 41
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Eight - Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23328.
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Page 41

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40 The hazards associated with the use of natural gas-fueled buses differ from those associated with diesel buses. Emer- gency response procedures that respond to and mitigate these hazards are required. For this synthesis report, insight into current practices was determined by a combination of a survey of agencies using natural gas as an alternative fuel and an examination of actual procedures provided by several of those agencies. The sur- vey covered transit experience with 3,130 natural gas buses. Key findings were: • One fuel-related incident per 100 buses per year was experienced by the agencies that responded to the survey. • Transit mechanics were more likely to be the first respon- ders to a compressed natural gas (CNG) incident than were fire department personnel. • Of those agencies that had emergency procedures, the majority were developed in-house, whereas the rest were developed by vendors, consultants, or other tran- sit agencies. • Overall, the survey found that although 84% of transit agencies responding have developed some natural gas- related emergency procedures, more than 50% have not prepared emergency procedures that cover both facil- ity and vehicle emergencies, and 40% have not com- municated emergency procedures to local fire or police departments. • In regard to security, because natural gas differs from diesel fuel in several ways, additional study is needed to define any security issues. There is a general reluctance among transit agencies to share information on existing procedures. Multiple requests were made for practices to obtain the examples used for this synthesis. Survey results indicated that many transit agencies lacked emergency procedures for scenarios such as a fuel leak on a vehicle in service. Forty percent of the transit agen- cies had not shared procedures, for any type of emergency, with the fire department. Two case studies illustrate deficiencies in existing proce- dures, whereas a third focuses on a firefighter’s perspective. In the first two cases, the agencies had written procedures and had shared them with their local fire departments. Subse- quent on-board fires were allowed to burn, resulting in a total loss of the vehicle. Whether there are written procedures or not, fire departments may respond to CNG bus fires with the same approach as for an automobile fire—where a total loss is almost a given. Two lessons learned from actual incidents are of particu- lar interest. First, better information would help firefighters become more proactive in responding to incidents involving CNG vehicles. Second, despite the existence of procedures, there appears to be a significant disconnect in the expectations of agencies that operate CNG-fueled buses and the fire depart- ments that respond to incidents involving these vehicles. This synthesis illustrates that there are significant knowl- edge gaps in protocols followed in response to fires, as well as gas releases involving CNG-fueled transit buses. The ques- tion remains of whether or not there is value in developing a standard set of protocols that can be used by agencies oper- ating a CNG fleet. However, because much of what is known is based on anecdotal information, there is need for the fol- lowing issues to be addressed: • There is an immediate need for – A repository and standard reporting format for inci- dents involving natural gas-fueled transit vehicles, – A robust definition of the term “incident,” – An incentive for agencies to report their experi- ences, and – A mechanism for the dissemination of lessons learned. • Improvements in vehicle design could help firefighters change their perspective on responding to fires involv- ing natural gas-fueled transit buses. • The development of natural gas vehicle emergency response protocols needs to occur within the context of the Incident Command System. • Differences in knowledge, training, and perspective between various stakeholders—including fire depart- ments, police departments, transit agencies, and vehicle manufacturers—indicate that a collaborative effort will be required to develop an effective set of emergency response protocols. Regional fire academies and the International Association of Fire Fighters should also be involved. • There have already been incidents that highlighted the need for improved emergency response protocols. Clearly, some procedures need to be more fully devel- oped, and additional study is needed to further define the type of information that fire departments need, as CHAPTER EIGHT CONCLUSIONS

41 • Overall, improved emergency response protocols are needed, along with training programs and materials for firefighters. The cost of developing response protocols could be recovered if the cost of even one transit bus can be saved through better response to fires or other emergencies. well as to determine the most effective way to commu- nicate that information. For example, firefighters could be helped to recognize areas where there may be immi- nent harm during emergency response operations and to determine the extent of the area to be cordoned off dur- ing an incident involving a natural gas-fueled bus.

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 58: Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles identifies and documents the state of the practice on emergency response protocols to incidents involving natural gas-filled transit buses. The report is designed to assist first responders to natural gas incidents—emergency response professionals such as police officers and fire-fighters; transit agency operations and maintenance employees, police, and security guards; and certain members of the general public.

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