CSB Releases 'Half an Hour to Tragedy' Safety Video

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released a new 23-minute safety video, titled "Half an Hour to Tragedy," based on the deadly propane gas explosion at the Little General convenience store in Ghent, W.Va., in January 2007.

CSB's final written report on the tragedy, which killed two emergency responders and two propane technicians, was approved at a public meeting in Beckley, W.Va., on Sept. 25.

According to CSB, the title of the video refers to the nearly thirty minutes that elapsed between the beginning of the propane release and the moment of the explosion. During that period, no evacuation occurred, and volunteer firefighters and others entered the flammable propane cloud.

"This video shows how a number of factors--a tank placed too close to the building, a lack of necessary training for propane technicians, and a lack of awareness among technicians and responders to order an immediate evacuation--combined to take the lives of four people," said John Bresland, CSB chairman and CEO. "Across the United States, firefighters are responding to propane emergencies almost every day. Training and preparedness are the keys to preventing tragic accidents like the one in West Virginia last year."

The video includes a seven-minute, 3-D computer animation showing how a defective valve on a 500-gallon propane storage tank shot propane directly into the store building through attic vents during what was supposed to have been a routine change of propane service provider.

West Virginia State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis, Jr., is featured in the video, along with CSB investigators Robert Hall, P.E., and Jeffrey Wanko, P.E., C.S.P.

CSB recommended mandatory training for propane technicians using improved training materials, regular hazardous materials training, and drills for responders, and new propane release guidance for 911 emergency operators.

The new video can be viewed on the CSB's video site, www.safetyvideos.gov, as well as the agency's YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/uscsb. Free DVD copies will become available within the next several weeks and can be pre-ordered by clicking on "Request DVD" on the CSB's Web site, www.CSB.gov.

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