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The Paulsboro Plan – Coming To Your Town?

Shelter in Place – Does this look like your house?

Duck & Cover - And Shelter in Place


Readers here know that a toxic train derailed in Paulsboro NJ early on the morning of Friday November 30. By pure luck, most of the community was not awake and out and about when it happened.

A cloud of toxic vinyl chloride gas rapidly spread from one of the rail cars, throughout the community. Over 80 exposed people were sickened and sent to local emergency rooms. Luckily, a nearby elementary school dodged the toxic bullet.

We now learn that emergency responders lacked proper equipment and the hand held air monitoring devices didn’t have working batteries. As a result, we don’t know the levels of toxic gas to which people were exposed immediately after the accident.

[Maybe the chemical companies that make billions in profits producing these poisons could pass the hat and buy the town some batteries for Christmas? Voluntary philanthropy is the only way to go because Gov. Christie won’t stand for any regulatory requirements and “job killing red tape” and unfunded State mandates.]

Later, EPA mobile lab air monitoring showed unsafe levels throughout the community – even 4 days after the accident.

Vinyl chloride is a highly toxic and carcinogenic gas – children are especially susceptible to adverse health effects from even short term low concentration exposures.

Current science is not able to say with certainty whether there will be any adverse health effects to those exposed.

Residents were never told about all this – but they were told that the air was “safe” and that there would be NO health effects to the people who were exposed.

After pressure and threats by the chemical industry to shut down plants and move production and jobs out of state, the toxic trains are now again running, despite the fact that there is no public report by the NTSB about the cause of the accident,  the ancient bridge has not been replaced, and failed prevention and emergency response plans have not been corrected.

No biggie, right?

Portions of the town were evacuated – while other residents were told to “shelter in place”. The evacuation zone expanded and contracted over time, and the shelter in place guidance was rescinded. Community meetings were scheduled, cancelled and rescheduled. The press was asked to attend and then told not to attend, and then reinvited.

Chaos, no?

So we thought we’d provide “official” information from the NJ Office of Emergency Management of exactly what shelter in place  is supposed to look like.

[While this Guidance requires “preplanning, we note that the Guidance was not posted on the Unified Command website until December 14 – 2 weeks after the accident – we assume that it is intended to address the statistically inevitable future accidents.]

Here’s how “shelter in place” is supposed to work:

The process used to seal the room is considered a temporary protective measure to create a barrier between you and potentially contaminated air outside. It is a type of sheltering in place that requires preplanning.

  • Bring your family and pets inside.
  • Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems.
  • Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
  • Go into an interior room with few windows, if possible.
  • Seal all windows, doors and air vents with 2-4 mil. thick plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
  • Cut the plastic sheeting several inches wider than the openings and label each sheet.
  • Duct tape plastic at corners first and then tape down all edges.
  • Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination.
  • Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.
Got that?
  • Did you do all your preplanning?
  • Bought your emergency kit?
  • Sealed up all the leaks in that drafty old house of yours?
  • Bought the duct tape and plastic sheets?
  • run through the drill with the wife, kids and dog?
  • Set your cell phone to the local emergency responders so you’ll be awake to install it all immediately after the next train crash?

Feel safe now?

But, oops! They didn’t tell you something important.

You got to get to the second page to read this small caveat:

However, local officials are unlikely to recommend the public shelter in a sealed room for more than 2-3 hours because the effectiveness of such sheltering diminishes with time as the contaminated outside air gradually seeps into the shelter. At this point, evacuation from the area is the better protective action to take.

After 3 hours you might be dead.

Thousands of toxic train cars travel throughout NJ every day.

According to EPA,  a leak or accident at any one of a dozen NJ chemical facilities could KILL OVER 100,000 people. 

Does it make sense to manufacture, store, process, and transport toxic chemicals that could kill so many people in the most densely populated state in the country?

Or do you think you can shelter in place and ride it out?

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