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City Flubs Industrial Release Notification Once Again
November 29, 2001
Around 9:00 PM tonight, the sirens went off in southwest Richmond. From my home, I could see an unusual amount of smoke or vapor coming from what appeared to be General Chemical. It was wafting eastward over central Richmond. I tuned in to KCRT to find out what was going on, but the only programming was a replay of the City Council swearing-in ceremony. I received several phone calls from citizens wanting information. There was still no information on KCRT. I called the city manager, fire chief and police chief on their cell phones. No answer. I called Police dispatching; the line was busy. I called KCRT about 9:40 PM, and I was told that they had been given no information but that they were trying to find some. Here it is 9:51 PM and I have not a clue what went down.

The last time we had a General Chemical release on May 1, 2001, there was an after-action critique in which I emphasized the need to inform KCRT so they could inform the citizenry what was happening:

"Council member Butt asked if we can notify the media by telephone (KCRT, the five network t.v. stations, three radio stations), and can we get in touch with incident command by phone that there's a release at General Chemical. Council member Butt thinks top priority should be to notify KCRT..."

"Council member Butt said the critical time where information was not getting out was within the first thirty minutes. L. Bryant said they have made it a priority to give KCRT information at the beginning of incidents. Protocol also includes telling KCRT what information can go out. L. Bryant said they are working on that. R. Lee said Channel 25, KCOR a.m. and KCRT.com were the three venues for information going out. The radio station had a problem with the amplifier, and it's being repaired (will be fixed by tomorrow). KCOR a.m. can be heard from Hercules/Orinda to Berkeley. It's a 10-watt station. R. Lee said they weren't in the loop, and found out when the sirens went off."

I wonder when we will ever be able to deal effectively with notification and information distribution related to industrial accidents?

Update: I just got a phone call from the city manager. It is a SO2 release at general Chemical with a shelter in place.