CSB Releases New 'Blast Wave in Danvers' Safety Video

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released a comprehensive safety video on the massive explosion which shook Danvers, Mass., a suburb of Boston, on Nov. 22, 2006.

The video, titled "Blast Wave in Danvers," is based on an 18-month CSB investigation into the accident at the CAI ink manufacturing facility, completed in May 2008. The video features a computer-generated 3-D animation graphically depicting the sequence of events leading to the explosion and the subsequent blast wave that rolled over the Danversport residential area, destroying dozens of homes and businesses, and causing extensive damage to many more. The animation shows how the blast blew entire window frames into the bedrooms of sleeping residents, who comment on the experience in the video. Remarkably, only a handful of residents were injured, none seriously.

"The safety video clearly illustrates how the lack of checklists, automatic shutoff systems, process controls, and hazard analyses can lead to a catastrophic chemical accident," said CSB Chairman John Bresland. "Together with the Massachusetts state and local officials and residents who appeared in the video, we share the hope that this accident and the resulting investigations will pave the way for improved public safety in the future."

CSB found, and the video shows, how a critical steam valve used to control the temperature of a 2,000-gallon batch of flammable solvents inside an ink-making process vessel was likely left open inadvertently by a CAI production supervisor. The solvents boiled and flammable vapor escaped from the unsealed process vessel into the facility, which was not ventilated at night when the building was unoccupied. During the overnight hours, hundreds of pounds of flammable vapor were released into the building, eventually reaching an ignition source at 2:46 a.m. on the morning of November 22.

"We hope this video will encourage other communities, officials, and local emergency planning committees to improve awareness of industrial hazards, review the effectiveness of codes and inspections, and minimize the potential for future disasters involving flammable materials close to residential neighborhoods," Bresland said.

The 20-minute video expands on a previous version which was shown at a CSB public meeting on May 13, 2008, in Danvers. The new video includes interviews and commentary from James Tutko, Danvers Fire Chief; Wayne Marquis, Danvers Town Manager; Stephen Coan, the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal; State Representative Theodore Speliotis; Michael Powers, member of the Danvers Board of Selectmen; Kenneth Willette, Concord Fire Chief and former president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts; and numerous Danvers residents, including Susan Tropeano, a current member of the Danvers Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), whose house was damaged in the blast.

The video also includes commentary by CSB Board Member William E. Wright and CSB investigators who conducted the 18-month probe, discussing the CSB's findings and recommendations. More information on the CSB investigation of the explosion at CAI Inc. can be found at CSB.gov in the "Completed Investigations" section.

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