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Haz Mat Incident For All To Learn From

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  • Haz Mat Incident For All To Learn From

    From a local fire service forum www.iacoj.com

    Here is a scenario from a incident a FD in Michigan had just over a year ago. You will be given the dispatch info and what they saw.

    Mind you they have never seen or heard of anything like this before.

    FD Dispatched to a possible electrocution, two subjects, unconscious, in the basement, and Children calling it in.

    Upon Chief 372 arrival he met the children in the front yard who said their dad was in the basement and mom went down to help and she started shaking and went down. Chief 372 went to the basement door to find the basement had about 6 inches of water throughout. He could see both victims one face down and the other across the first victims legs partially in the water. The neighbor had a little electric tic and he said he put it in the water with no reading on it. The children said they went shopping and when they came home the father heard water spraying downstairs. When he went downstairs he opened a door and started shaking all over. The mother told the kids to call 911 and when she went to help she also passed out.

    While chief 372 was at the basement door above the water chief 372 could hear one of the victims trying to breath and gurgling in the water. As one of chief 372 other guys arrived we immediately pulled the electric meter from the front of the house (power company over 1 hour eta) this goes against our SOG's.

    Crews then made entry into the basement where they had about 6 inches of sulfur water(normal for the area as most of the wells in the area are sulfur water). When crews checked the electric panel we had a blown breaker for the basement area this was done while the following treatments were going on.

    Crews turned the mother over and cleared her airway and started supplemental O2 via ambu bag. She still had a pulse and was trying to breath on her own. The father was pulseless and apneic. Crews started CPR on him and moved both victims from the basement to the upstairs kitchen area. Crews worked on both victims and they were transported by ambulance to the hospital. Crews did get a pulse back on the father but no resperations. He did start breathing on his own enroute to the hospital.

    Both mother and father survived the ordeal and are leading normal lives again.

    The Rest of the story…

    Chief 372 & crew get back to the station and the hospital calls - They need crews to go back out and investigate more because they can find no entry or exit wounds to indicate the electrocution.

    Lets just say at this point Crews went back out to see what they could find out. They felt it was a poisoning of some type not an electrocution.

    Hazmat guys think about what I have told you so far-you may come up with the answer.

    I will give the rest of the story now.

    Chef 372 got the call from the hospital and went back to the scene with a couple guys to see what they could find. Since they said it appeared to be some kind of poisoning the took the gas meter with them. When they walked in the door we were hit with 75ppm of Hydrogen sulfide. (TLV is 10ppm IDLH is 300). They were back at the scene about 45 minutes after They cleared the scene the first time. They notified the hospital from the scene as to what they found. They then notified our health department as it did not seem right to them and had them respond. When they arrived they called the EPA out of Chicago. They sent a crew via plane to Metro airport and come to the scene. They were there in about 6 hours. The scene is about 30-45 minutes form the airport.

    In the mean time Chief 372 got a call from the station that one of the fireman at the station was complaining of Shortness of Breath and a couple of more complaining of dizziness. Chief 372 responded back to the station with the rescue and called for an ambulance. Since they are volunteer Chief 37 arrived at the same time that Chief 372 did. He advised C37 of the situation and what was going on. Chief 372 told him that the station was out of service and that all personnel on scene were going to be evaluated at the hospital. The ambulance arrived and transported three firemen and the Chief took the remainder in the Rescue unit. They were out of service for two hours while the health department waited on scene for the EPA.

    When the EPA arrived the FD was called back to be the stand by crew for the EPA entry team. We spent the next two days with them on scene.

    Here is what they found.

    The house has about two feet of plumbing in the house that feeds the barns for the horses. This is in a room about 4X9 that they use as a "tornado shelter". In the room is where the pump and the pressure tank is for the system. The family was gone for about 6 hours shopping so the FD do not know how long the leak was going.

    Upon investigation the EPA found that the pressure tank had a pinhole leak around one of the seams that had rusted. Under pressure it was creating an aerosal of hydrogen sulfide. FD do not know how long the leak was going but the fd figure it either overheated the system and tripped the breaker or the fd got about 24 inches of water trapped in the room and it popped the breaker when it got into the electrical. The FD thinks the second to explain the amount of water in the basement area along with the sump pump backing up do to no power. It was on the same breaker as the pump.

    During the investigation the EPA put a tent up around the pump and ran it. In a matter of 10 minutes they were registering 2400ppm around the pump.

    The thought was that when the father went down and opened the door to the room he was overcome immediately and went down. The wife saw him go down and when she went to help him she was also overcome.

    The health department was going to do a study in the area to see how much HS was given off when people took a shower after this call. The FD have never heard of any results of that but the FD does know that they are going to town and getting city water put in all over the place.

    Like it was said above everyone is fine now . Chief 372 brought this scenario up because it is one of those odd calls that could happen anytime. Chief 372 told the chief that they should do a paper of some type on this but his answer was He will tell the association, that only covers 24 depts. It could happen anywhere at anytime though.

    Chief 372 now know what it feels like to send a fireman to the hospital. As an incident commander it is the worst feeling in the world. The guys he has have are great and pounded it into his head that who would have thought about HS like that, and that they do know that every call has unknown dangers. They knew chief 372 was feeling real bad about it.

  • #2

    "...their dad was in the basement and mom went down to help and she started shaking and went down. "

    Just about everything that transpired after this point was questionable.

    FD Dispatched to a possible electrocution
    We should avoid letting a calling party's information determine cause.

    most of the wells in the area are sulfur water

    Chief 372 went to the basement door
    No SCBA?

    neighbor had a little electric tic (sic) and he said he put it in the water with no reading
    The cause being electrical is now in doubt

    Crews then made entry into the basement
    No SCBA?

    Crews turned the mother over and cleared her airway and started supplemental O2
    In an untested atmosphere
    I really wish this scenario was presented differently. The title was "Haz Mat Incident..." which made me start thinking from the start. I'm not sure if I would have looked at things in a different way without the title. I would like to think I would have been going on air immediately after hearing a person down, below grade and a second person who went to assist also down.


    • #3
      E229lt: Good point, you never know and a person down call can easily start the tunnel vision. I'll bet there are many of us out here that would have done the same thing focusing on electrical. This is defineately a decent case for review on shift.

      Originally posted by trkcoEMT
      Upon investigation the EPA found that the pressure tank had a pinhole leak around one of the seams that had rusted. Under pressure it was creating an aerosal of hydrogen sulfide.
      So the water leak under pressure causes aerosalized hydrogen sulfide?


      • #4
        Aeration is the most efficient way to remove H2S from source water.


        • #5
          Unknown cause + two vic down= SCBA/Gas/CO detector
          K Dugas
          Duson Vol.Fire Dept.
          FF1 Haz Mat OP's


          • #6
            Really surprised with readings that high the H2S odor didn't knock them off their feet when they entered. That odor is HORRIBLE. Sewer gas smells... kinda like a sewer.

            Although there were things done when entering due to lack of knowledge or experience with this type of situation (no pack or monitor) that most (I hope) wouldn't, it was nice on a side note to see they were willing to "waiver" on SOGs to try to help someone. They pulled the meter since they thought it was electrical... assuming in their area this kills power to homes like it does in ours (we don't pull them normally either, and in some areas of the country this doesn't kill power). There are some departments that have policies and guys will let citizens die rather than break a policy and take a risk to save them.

            As for us, we get that type call we're likely going in with gear on, likely pack on our back (not on air) and carrrying a 4 gas monitor (have them on all our front line rigs). If we got a hit on the H2S we're packing up and continuing. It's different all over I suppose. No different than a CO medical.


            • #7
              Water in the basement, plus the report of mom "shaking" before she collapsed...my first thought probably would have been electrocution as well. The hysterical kids screaming "save my parents" certainly did not help matters.

              I used to work with Chief 37-2. He has 25+ years experience and is a level headed chief officer and a great guy who cares about his men. Tunnel vision almost did him and his firefighters in on this call, which is his reason for sharing it.
              "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor." - Vince Lombardi


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