AMU Editor's Pick Emergency Management Fire & EMS Original Public Safety

EDM Friday Briefing: Old Infrastructure Poses Challenge for Current Fire Equipment

Emergency and disaster management briefing for November 19, 2021: The V.C. Summer nuclear power plant was shut down after small fire from a transformer failure; a new deepwater port in the Mississippi River will offer multiple modes of container movement; area railroad underpasses are too short or narrow for some Springfield Fire trucks; an ash cloud from a 1912 eruption of an Alaskan volcano prompted an aviation alert; a gas leak sparked evacuations at a large shopping center in the San Francisco Bay Area; a burgeoning population and congested roadways has residents in Colorado Springs questioning wildfire evacuation plans; gusty, high winds shut down wind turbines in North Dakota this past week; and hard work by fire suppression repair teams prompts early reopening of Plumas National Forest areas affected by wildfires.

The V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina was shut down on November 15, after a failure caused a fire. A main transformer failure caused an oil spill and sparked a fire that was quickly suppressed when the plant’s fire system activated. An investigation into the cause of the transformer failure is underway.

A new deepwater port on the Mississippi River is being planned about 50 nautical miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The new port would handle ships up to 22,000 TEU and include all modes for container movement, including rail, truck, inland marine (river/canal), and air. An agreement between Plaquemines Port, Harbor and Terminal District (PPHTD) in Louisiana, and APM Terminals, was signed to further development efforts of the planned port.

Area railroad underpasses may cause a delay in the arrival of fire trucks at fires in Springfield, Illinois. Multiple underpasses are too short or narrow to accommodate some of the fire trucks owned by the Springfield Fire Department, and it can affect response times. Stations either need to reroute around the underpass or ask another company to handle the incident, and that may waste precious time. Currently, at least one bridge replacement is in the planning stages, and local officials are working to find other solutions until all the bridges can be replaced or removed.

Strong northwesterly winds swept through parts of Alaska on Wednesday, and picked up ash from a 109-year-old volcanic eruption and sent it toward Alaska’s Kodiak Island. The ash is still visible from the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, a volcano located in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, which is located on the Alaska Peninsula. Nearly 600 feet of ash was deposited from that eruption in what is now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The ash cloud also prompted an aviation alert below 10,000 feet, and scientists forecast that the ash cloud was expected to travel at least 100 miles.

Temporary evacuations at the Morgan Hill shopping center in the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday afternoon were prompted by a gas leak. CalFire responded to incident, and ordered the evacuation of area businesses in the large shopping center. The public was asked to avoid the area while the incident was ongoing, and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced later that it had mitigated the leak without any incident, and businesses were able to reopen.

The after-action report from the 2012 Waldo Canyon Wildfire helped shape evacuation plans for Colorado Springs, but some are now questioning these plans in the event of another wildfire. Concerns over a recently burgeoning population, along with congested roadways, has prompted calls to officials for additional modeling of evacuation plans–as current plans may be too outdated to be effective or efficient. The 2012 fire prompted a major evacuation of at least 25,000 people, which caused major traffic jams, and in just 19 days, the wildfire destroyed 345 homes.

High, gusty winds shut down wind turbines this past week in North Dakota. Although winds are needed to operate the turbines to produce energy, high winds pose a serious risk of danger to the turbines. The blades always turn at the same speed, so wind speeds in the teens are ideal, while higher wind gusts actually generate too much pressure on the blades–which can cause damage–and it puts more stress on the gearbox.

The Dixie Fire and the Beckwourth Complex fire in California prompted the closure of federally managed lands throughout the Plumas National Forest. Hard work by suppression repair teams since the fires were contained, has reduced the closure time, allowing the forest trails, roads, and recreation areas to open earlier than scheduled. These areas will reopen on Friday, November 19, but the Forest Service is asking visitors to use caution as area suppression work continues, including on roadways, which may cause delays.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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