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West, Texas – A Terrible Tragedy – and some lessons for us all

Let’s be clear, the disaster that occurred this week at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas is a terrible tragedy.  As this is being written there are now 12 fatalities and they are closing in on 200 injured – some critically with the search and recovery still ongoing.

There are some facts we know that now we think we need to emphasize:

 

  1. 1.     Some of the fatalities are fire and EMS/first responders.  These individuals – many of them volunteers – gave their lives protecting their families and their communities and they deserve our honour and our respect – forever.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their families.

 

  1. 2.     The explosion from the plant was severe and extreme.  It caused injury to many – and massive structural damage to neighboring facilities/buildings. Regardless of cause, this event reinforces for all of us the critical elements of municipal planning, development restrictions and buffer zones. 

 

We see the rural/urban and industrial/residential development trade off getting more and more complex – as our population increases.  The setbacks allowed at West will be looked at going forward no doubt.  This event serves as a crucial reminder for us all to be aware of these issues as our communities grow and as our industrial facilities and transportation corridors expand as well.The need for critical risk assessment and mitigation has not gone away.  Our skills in facility engineering and materials testing and design have gotten better and better but we cannot ignore the risk management aspect of our businesses.  The first responders in WEST, Texas and elsewhere are owed that consideration – always.

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