Misinformation about chemicals spreads

October 27, 2019

Vindicator.  DEAR EDITOR:

As a fire chief and lead instructor of Ohio’s oil and gas emergency response training program, I want to take a moment to educate your readers on first responders and chemical disclosure, especially as it relates to the crude oil and natural gas industry. Recently, it has been suggested that Ohio firefighters lack the knowledge and expertise to address emergencies with possible chemical exposure. These claims are both false and disrespectful to these brave men and women who work hard to keep our communities safe.

State and federal laws require extensive disclosure of chemical compounds at all businesses as well as those materials shipped by car, truck, rail or pipeline. These laws apply to oil and gas operations too, and always have. Firefighters are trained to cross reference chemical identification numbers on containers and placards with the USDOT Emergency Response Guidebook to determine the best course of action. In addition, all businesses must maintain SDS (Safety Data Sheets) on a variety of materials. This is not exclusive to one business or industry.

I also want to point out the intentional misuse of the phrase “trade secrets” when vilifying the oil and gas industry. That phrase is often used to confuse and alarm communities. Trade secrets are used by many types of businesses, including the fire service, and typically consist of information that may include a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. “Trade secrets” should not be confused with chemical disclosure, as is often the case.

In collaboration with safety experts from the fire service industry and regulatory agencies, the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) has trained nearly 1,600 firefighters in Ohio on oil and gas emergency safety protocols. While the industry is not required to provide this free training, they do, and have spent millions of dollars on these specialized workshops since 2001.

Proper firefighter training is being taught in Ohio, and as a result, our communities and our fire departments are better for it.

BRENT GATES

Adjunct instructor, Ohio Fire Academy

Lead Fire Instructor, OOGEEP

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