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March 2003 Newsletter
News Archive
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Columbia Shuttle

On the morning of February 1, a Saturday, your newsletter editor woke up early in order to put the finishing touches on our monthly newsletter and send it off to our Webmaster. It would have been one of the few times that I got a newsletter out by the first of the month. I was almost finished when my daughter-in-law called to ask if one our relatives (an astronaut) was on the Columbia Shuttle. I answered with authority “no” and asked “why?”

She advised me that she was watching the news and they just announced that NASA-Houston had lost contact with Columbia over Texas. I switched on the TV as my other cousin was making the announcement from Houston that the shuttle did not arrive at Cape Kennedy’s Space Center and the spacecraft was presumed lost.

Like most people around the world the rest of that Saturday was spent glued to the TV waiting for good news. None came. It just got worse.

The reason I mention my relatives is that we are a close-knit family. We rejoice in each other’s joys. We are shattered by each other’s sadness. I have seen first-hand how the entire NASA Administration is one great extension of a single family. I know how deeply this tragedy has affected them and will continue to do so for a very long time. And I share their grief because I share any grief that a member of my family feels.

Our hearts go out to the shuttle’s seven crewmembers’ families and to their own extended family at NASA.

The Original Newsletter -
I don’t know whatever happened to my original newsletter for this February. It was swallowed up by that terrible dark day of February 1st. What was a reasonably decent attempt at sharing experiences with dangerous goods must be mined from the inner recesses of my feeble brain to surface again, hopefully, next month.

But time does indeed march on and other issues have also risen to the extent that one must wonder if the entire world has gone mad.

Security Alert
On February 7th the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a “Code Orange” alert. This means that federal, state, and local authorities have been placed on “High Alert” that terrorists were planning another attack on the United States and that government buildings, the infrastructure, and the public were at high risk.

Ordinary freight shipments into the United States will experience some delays. Dangerous Goods shipments will come under still more scrutiny than ever before. Visitors to the U.S. will be screened as never before. Travelers should be prepared for delays and interrogation. Be patient. Don’t be sarcastic. Don’t make any jokes. Enforcement personnel take this seriously. The public should be just as serious about these threats.

Troubled world
If Americans and visitors to America feel inconvenienced and frustrated, things could be worse. In fact, they are worse – in parts of South America; in the middle east; on the Korean peninsula; in parts of Africa; parts of Eastern Europe; and Asia. The declining world economy, poverty, illness, civil unrest and terrorist activities seem to be everywhere. We sure wish we had all the answers. Obviously world leaders do not.

Classification – Class 4, Flammable Solids etc.
I do know that this was one of the topics to be discussed in detail this month. A website visitor from South Africa had brought it to our attention that this was one of the classes that was not previously covered in other newsletters. It will now have to wait ‘till next month.

DGAC Conference –

"Global Dangerous Goods Transportation: What's Next" DGAC/Pira International 2003 Global Conference, March 12-14, 2003, Prague, Czech Republic.

This is a very informative conference and particularly the European and Pacific Rim visitors to this website should try to attend.

For further information click on www.dgac.org


February – a terrible month for Hazmats.

  • Ammonia release in Louisiana – thousands evacuated.
  • Resin explosion in Kentucky.
  • Chemical explosion in Cranston, RI.
  • Release of mace in a nightclub in Chicago caused panic – people trampled to death during evacuation. Because of the security alert the victims thought it was a terrorist chemical attack.
  • Pyrotechnic fireworks caused a fire in West Warwick RI nightclub fire - almost 100 dead.
  • Huge gasoline explosion and fire in Staten Island, NY - 2 dead.

In our January 2002 Newsletter we noted the following:

“On Saturday, December 29, 2001, more than 300 people were killed in a massive fireworks accident in Lima, Peru. The fire started late Saturday and spread throughout four blocks of downtown Lima until it was extinguished after midnight Sunday.

A box of fireworks that accidentally exploded caused the fire. It is believed that a customer of a fireworks vendor set off a fairly simple firecracker and that, in turn, set off the other nearby fireworks.
Pyrotechnic rockets flew through the air, hitting vehicles and nearby shops that also sold fireworks. Emergency workers are still searching for bodies as we attempt to finish this newsletter. Peru has just made the manufacture, use, sale, or importation of fireworks illegal.

Those of us in transportation and safety-related jobs use the words "hazardous" and "dangerous" to describe all explosives, even the so-called recreational fireworks. We know the potential dangers. If only the general public would follow that advice…”

Perhaps we should have added “show business entrepreneurs” to that warning.


Documentation covering Dangerous Goods shipments to, from, and within, the United States must now be retained for a minimum of 375 days after the shipments have been tendered to the carrier. For hazardous waste shipments the retention period will be 3 years. The documents must be available to federal, state, and local enforcement personnel within a reasonable time after they have been requested. This rule applies to shippers, warehouse and transportation storage facilities, freight forwarders, and carriers in all modes of transport. Electronic storage of these documents is acceptable. This rule will surely create a challenge to those companies that farm out the storage of documents to subcontractors on a monthly or quarterly basis. The issue of “reasonable time” may be a problem although RSPA/DOT feels otherwise.

Truck drivers are no longer are required to check tires at 100 mile intervals. However, they are required to perform this safety inspection at each rest stop and delivery and pickup point.

Drivers with CDL’s should be alert to new security checks prior to renewing their licenses. File for your renewal early since delays appear to be common.

Security Training – we are still waiting for the U.S. D.O.T./RSPA final rule concerning RSPA-02-12064 (HM-232) TITLE: Hazardous Materials: Security Requirements for Offerors and Transporters of Hazardous Materials.

This rule, when it is finally published, will likely have a severe impact on everyone involved in the distribution chain. Check out “Hot Links” section in this website. We will post the final rule when it is issued. If your company has not already been preparing for security training you are going to be in a bind since it would appear that you will have only 90 days to implement training for all of your employees.

FMCSA-02-11650 (HM-232A) TITLE: Security Requirements for Motor Carriers Transporting Hazardous Materials; Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM); Published 7/16/2002, 67 FR 46622.
Security measures being considered include escorts, vehicle tracking and monitoring systems, emergency warning systems, remote shut-offs, direct short-range communications, and notification to state and local authorities.

There is no quiz this month.


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