Compromising Position

In March 2015, a hazmat emergency involving a shipping container shut down North America's third largest port facility

Finding personnel willing and able to operate heavy equipment at Canada’s Port Metro Vancouver during a massive hazardous materials incident in March proved to be the most difficult aspect of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s emergency response.

Heat generated by chemical decomposition destroyed more than 22 tons of tricholorisocyanic acid, a caustic bleaching agent, sealed in an intermodal shipping container. The orientation of adjacent stacked containers blocked access through either end to reach the runaway decomposition, said Dan Wood, VFRS’ Assistant Chief for Emergency Operations.

Wood served as the incident commander during the March 4 emergency at the port’s Centerm container terminal. Emergency responders were on scene within 11 minutes, but port workers had already evacuated, Wood said.

“As the incident progressed, it became an issue as to where we could find a machine operator to move some of the containers out of the way,” he said. “It took us quite a while to have an appropriately trained operator safely move some of the unaffected containers during the operation.”

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