The chemical industry is the driving force
of Louisiana's economy but when disaster strikes it can be devastating, even
Louisiana firefighters have become the
first in the nation to be specially trained to respond to those emergencies.
It's the kind of emergency
that puts plant workers and people who live nearby on edge. Less than a week
ago one woman said an explosion at a pipeline southeast of Franklinton knocked
her off her sofa. Residents in 55 households were forced to evacuate. State Fire
Marshal Butch Browning said in those situations first responders have to act
"If you have time to
think. If you have time to second guess then lives can be lost and property
could be damaged," Browning said.
Thousands of miles worth
of pipeline run beneath Louisiana's surface. Browning said nearly 2,000
firefighters in Louisiana have been trained to respond to leaks and other
hazards involving pipelines and chemical plants.
They were part of a pilot
program offered through the National Association of State Fire Marshals and Shell
Pipeline Company. It's an online course where a pipeline operators give first
responders a better understanding of what they do and the best ways to respond
"It used to be we operate
within our departments and when big things happen we lacked coordination.
Incident command system does four fundamental things. It does a command. It
does an operation, logistics and support."
Browning said the new
training program puts all emergency personnel on the same page and makes
responding to these type of disasters almost second nature, which can mean the
difference between life and death.
"The specialty training
they receive in hazardous material response is essential."
Browning said the pipeline safety
class also helps increase the state's fire rating.
Texas is the only other state with the