Firefighters across the United States are all-hazards responders. From medical calls to fires, firefighters respond to anything and everything 24/7. Some incident types are low-risk, high-frequency, like many medical calls. Other incidents are high-risk, low-frequency, like hazardous materials releases.
Recognition prime decision making (RPDM) helps responders most of the time. This means that their experience from previous emergencies guides their decision-making process because they have something in their memory bank to draw from. However, when there is no previous experience to draw from, firefighters must fall back on training, resources, and special operations teams.
One example of a high-risk, low-frequency incident type is a pipeline release. Few responders across the United States, including firefighters, police officers, and emergency managers, have experience with these. They are low-frequency compared to all the other types of responses that occur.
Technology aids firefighters when RPDM cannot, especially in the field of hazardous materials. First responders are increasingly turning to apps for information critical to responses including chemical identification, plume modeling, and railroad emergencies, just to name a few. Recently, a new pipeline app has been added to the list – Buxus™.
The actions of all parties in the first 30 to 60 minutes after a pipeline incident will dramatically affect the impact and remediation needed to address the initial incident. This means information sharing, training, and the established relationship between the parties are all critical. It’s terribly frustrating to respond to a pipeline emergency and to have no idea who to call. Pipeline markers are often missing or have outdated information, leaving hazmat teams and incident commanders scratching their heads as minutes turn to hours.
For this reason alone, Buxus™ is a game changer. Regardless of experience or familiarity with pipelines, it’s possible to have the pipeline operator on the phone within seconds of receiving the 911 call. The difference between having the app and not having the app has to do with time; and, when product is being released into the communities we are trained to protect, we want the most effective way to reach operators.
Buxus™, Latin for “pipe,” is designed to provide critical information on pipelines around the clock and regardless of having cell phone or Wi-Fi coverage. The idea is to immediately provide the information needed by key stakeholders at the touch of a button before and during a pipeline emergency, regardless of whether or not an in-person meeting has occurred.
Buxus™ is funded by pipeline operators and is free to emergency officials. Once downloaded to their mobile devices, Buxus™ provides emergency officials with access to:
• information on commodities transported by operator and pipeline, for those that subscribe to the Buxus™ system
• emergency contact information by operator and pipeline
• hazards posed by commodity type
• emergency response actions to be taken and/ or avoided
• interactive maps
• a portal to request specific information or resources from an operator
With Buxus™, emergency officials can now have the information they need on pipelines in their jurisdiction(s) just by picking up their mobile device(s). It is this powerful yet simple functionality that has led to the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) supporting the efforts of Buxus™ to ensure their members have access to the information they need in the way that they want it.
Dana Brown serves as a Captain on the Houston Fire Department Hazmat team, working with entry teams, back-up teams and Unified Commanders. She is a Hazmat/WMD Master Instructor for first responders and sits on the committee for NFPA 470. Ms. Brown is also a veteran, who served as a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army, flying the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter.