As I was driving to a meeting in Denver, I noticed a large, black smoke plume in the distance. It was bigger than a house fire and not the color of the normal pollution that spews from Commerce City. As I got closer to downtown, I realized it was much further past the downtown area. Since I was on my way to facilitate a workshop, I did not have time to investigate.
It turns out that a fuel tanker carrying 500 gallons of diesel fuel and another 500 gallons of eight different types of oil lost a tire, crashed into the median and exploded along I-25 near the Denver Tech Center. The interstate carries about 260,000 vehicles a day and is one of the metropolitan areas biggest commercial hubs, home to many large corporations as well as hundreds of shops and restaurants. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, the driver was seen escaping the explosion and was taken to the hospital.
The meeting I was heading to was a recovery planning workshop for the City and County of Denver to go over the most recent draft of the recovery plan in which I am the project manager of the CDR Maguire team hired to develop the plan. For better or worse, the incident took place mere hundreds of feet from the Denver border and did not directly affect Denver’s OEM. In an even more coincidental twist of fate, Denver had planned a hazardous chemical spill exercise for the very next day.
Denver, along with several other agencies, did offer mutual aid. The fire burned for several hours, with ground temperatures reaching over 450 degrees, and the highway was completely shut down. Initial reports I heard was that it would take about four days to completely re-open the highway following an incident such as this.
The following day, I awoke to discover that the road was re-opened with only some minor permanent repairs still needed in large thanks to the quick action and assistance of everyone involved. Shailen Bhatt, executive director of CDOT, was quoted in the Denver Post as stating, “The damage to the roadway could have been much worse if these different agencies hadn’t come together to respond to the incident.”
As the calendar turns towards Hurricane Season for Atlantic based communities, it is an important reminder that not all disasters provide a warning and not all disasters are natural. Some very disruptive disasters are manmade or simply the result of an accident.
The events of this tanker explosion is a burning example of the need for preparedness and disaster related plans. Without a well thought out AND well practiced response plan AND pre-existing mutual aid agreement, the circumstances could have been much worse. It’s a matter of when, not if. Disasters are going to happen, and they can happen anytime, anywhere.
Being in the best possible position to manage any type of event is of the utmost importance. It starts with putting together a plan – for both response and recovery activities – then training and exercising on scenarios to be best prepared for when it counts. Just like a professional athlete, without the hours of dedication and sweat put into practice, they could never excel at their peak in game time.
If you or your community have any questions related to disaster assistance, please contact me at your earliest convenience at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can create a more resilient community that can prepare, respond and recovery from an emergency event.
I also invite you to download our “Key to Recovery”, follow me on twitter at @JoeAtCDRMaguire and connect with me on LinkedIn for additional tips and tools the aid in emergency management and disaster assistance.