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EDM Wednesday Briefing: FAA Signs Order Clearing 737 MAX to Fly

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for November 18, 2020: Multiple agencies work to minimize a hazmat spill from a sinking barge in the Petaluma River; Americold cold storage warehouse giant shuts down systems and halts warehouse access after a cyberattack; the FAA signed an order returning the 737 MAX to service; Fresh Express recalls salad kits due to potential E. coli contamination; Hurricane Iota slammed into Nicaragua as a strong Category 4 storm, and life-threatening flooding, flash floods, and landslides now pose a threat to Central America; a third accident at a chemical plant in Bradley County, Tennessee, has some calling for greater company transparency; and the USFA reported that 2019 had the lowest number of firefighter deaths since the agency has begun tracking fatalities.

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1) Multiple agencies are involved in the removal of hazardous materials from a sinking barge on the Petaluma River in California. Those called to the scene included the Petaluma and North Bay Fire Departments, Petaluma police, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and State Fish and Game, who placed containment booms around the sinking vessel. Shortly after the barge began sinking on Sunday morning, crews worked quickly to remove the diesel fuel from the vessel. Other petroleum products, such as lubricants in unknown volumes, remain onboard.

2) Americold Realty Trust, a leading temperature-controlled warehouse operator, was hit with a cyberattack on Monday, forcing the company to shut down multiple systems. Although it is unknown what type of attack occurred, reports indicate it was ransomware. The attack impacted phones, email, inventory management and order fulfillment. Americold operates 183 warehouses that provide supply-chain services and inventory management to producers, food service providers, and retailers, and the company is working with law enforcement to ensure the safety and integrity of its information technology infrastructure.

3) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed an order today that will allow Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft to return to flying, 20 months after the aircraft type was grounded. The worldwide grounding of the aircraft occurred in March of 2019, following two deadly crashes of the 737 MAX planes — a Lion Air crash in October of 2018, and five months later, an Ethiopian Airlines crash. The FAA noted that airlines must take specific measures prior to flying the aircraft, including getting approval for pilot training program revisions and maintenance that must be performed on all grounded airplanes.

4) Fresh Express has announced a recall of salad kits due to potential E.coli contamination. The recall was issued after a sample tested positive for E. coli, which only involves the 10.5 oz Fresh Express Kit Caesar Supreme at this time. According to the reports, the kits were possibly distributed to at least 15 states including Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Washington State.

5) Hurricane Iota slammed into Nicaragua as a strong, Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of at least 155 mph. The hurricane made landfall in nearly the same location as Hurricane Eta, which came ashore just two weeks earlier. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical depression that was located over El Salvador Wednesday morning and is expected to move out over the Pacific Ocean later on Wednesday. Life-threatening and potentially catastrophic flooding, flash floods, and landslides are now a major threat for Central America, as Iota has inundated the already saturated region with intense and heavy rainfalls.

6) A chemical accident at the Wacker Polysilicon facility in Bradley County, Tennessee, that killed one and injured four others last Friday was the third incident since the company opened in 2016. Due to the number of incidents that have occurred in the short time the plant has been opened, some members of the area community are calling for greater transparency at the company. According to reports, the three accidents have resulted in the death of one person and injured a total of 22 others. The first incident was in August of 2017, when a Silane gas release during routine maintenance caused chemical burns for five individuals. Just one week later, a second incident occurred that injured 13 people and prompted the plant to shut down for nine months. The third incident was caused when a piston fractured and released hydrogen, which ignited.

7) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a recall for frozen, ready-to-eat tamales with the Tucson label for potential foreign matter contamination of the regular diced tomatoes in puree. The products were manufactured by the Tucson Tamale Wholesale Company, LLC, in Tucson, Arizona, and were sold online and distributed nationwide between October 22 and November 9. According to the recall notice posted by the FDA, the regular diced tomatoes in puree could potentially be contaminated by hard plastic pieces, which pose gum, tooth and choking hazards.

8) The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reported that 2019 had the lowest number of firefighter fatalities ever recorded. A total of 62 firefighters died during 2019, which is a decrease of 18 percent in fatalities since 2010–and the lowest number the agency has seen since it began keeping track. According to the USFA report, there were 33 volunteer firefighter deaths, while career firefighter deaths numbered 25. The main causes of death included heart attacks (33), trauma (15), and burns (4), with age possibly being a factor in the heart attacks, however, there were no multi-fatality incidents.


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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