Home > Uncategorized > NJ School Used Duct Tape To Respond To Toxic Oil Spill

NJ School Used Duct Tape To Respond To Toxic Oil Spill

Duck & Cover, Duct Tape, and Turtles Are Still With Us

“Children connect numbered dots that form a toxic-gas cloud”


Winds were blowing that day toward neighboring Greenwich Township. There, at Broad Street Elementary School, all children and staff were taken to the gymnasium, and the doors and windows were sealed with duct tape and plastic.  ~~~ Gloucester County Times 2/25/12

The Absurdist Hall of Fame is littered by many foolish and delusional notions, perhaps the all-time greatest was the 1950’s “Duck and Cover” nuclear defense campaign, featuring Bert the turtle (watch this classic civil defense video).

But the Bush Administration’s Department of Homeland Security”s “disaster supply kit” and recommendation to use “a roll of duct tape and scissors“, could be in the runner up category.

Fearful Americans seemed to fall for the bullshit both times. I can recall “duck and cover” drills in elementary school, and more recently, witnessed folks head out to the local Home Depot fearing al Qaeda and cause a run on duct tape.

But many NJ school officials and emergency management professionals have some real threats to fear in their own back yard: massive oil refineries and chemical plants.

Shortly after the February 2003 Bush “duct tape” warning, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on April 20, 2003 (See: In the Shadow of Danger: The Chemical Plant Peril).

The source of that danger could be the Valero Energy Corp. oil refinery that cleaves to Paulsboro, across the Delaware from Philadelphia International Airport. It is one of eight plants in the Philadelphia region that could put more than one million people at risk of serious injury or death in a “worst-case scenario,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. …

And if anyone thinks that advances in science, technology, and environmental laws and regulations have allowed us to progress beyond those silly paranoid 1950’s civil defense notions about “duck and cover”, and the Bush Administration’s absurd hope that duct tape was a solution, consider this.

As the Inquirer reported, the “‘duck and cover” slogan has simply become “shelter in place” – and Bert the Turtle has had a sex change and is now named Shelley:

The companies also included some information on their [emergency management] plans in a newsletter mailed out by a community advisory panel.

The panel, composed of community members and representatives of five companies, has publicized the concept of “shelter-in-place,” which involves closing doors and windows, shutting vents, and sealing a room with duct tape and plastic.

The panel’s efforts include a coloring book featuring Shelly the Turtle. “Shelly stays safe when she shelters in her shell,” the book explains. Children can connect numbered dots that form a toxic-gas cloud.

Paulsboro Mayor John Burzichelli said shelter-in-place, not evacuation, may be the town’s only option.

Of course, largely ignored are the chronic day to day health risks caused by refinery emissions of tons of toxic hazardous air pollutants.

We don’t hear anything about any of that from DEP, Paulsboro Refinery Company, or – sadly – news reports.

(and what do we tell the kids when there are more chemical evacuation days than snow days ? ….)

view from the bleachers - Paulsboro HS

(source: Philly ABC news helicopter)

Paulsboro Refinery on Delaware River (Google maps)

Paulsboro Refinery on Delaware River (Google maps)

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