April 8, 2021 / Dave Wagner

Chemical Release Modeling: The Must-Have Tool in Your Emergency Response Kit

Sponsored by Industrial Scientific.

Despite the significant strides in safety taken by the OEHS profession over the last few decades, the danger of working with chemicals means emergencies will happen, regardless of our best efforts. This is why it pays to include proactive strategies in your chemical emergency response plan. In the wake of a chemical release, seconds can make the difference between successful crisis mitigation and disaster.

Plume models are a vital tool for anticipating and managing a chemical release. Most facilities rely on static plume models, which use manually input data to simulate the potential dispersion of a gas cloud. But there are dynamic plume modeling tools available that provide faster, more accurate information.

Which option is ideal for your facility? Let’s review the differences between static and dynamic plume models.

Understanding Static Plume Models

Static plume models help you maintain compliance with EPA regulations. Facilities that use hazardous substances must submit a risk management plan (RMP) to EPA every five years. The RMP needs to include loss-of-containment scenarios, including worst-case and most-likely scenarios. A static plume modeling tool can create these scenarios.

To create a plume with a static model, you must manually enter all the data about the release. In some cases, this data may not be available, so you must use estimated inputs.

The plume generated by a static model will never be up to date. By the time you enter the data, it’s already old. It’s like trying to predict the winner of a race from a photo taken right after the starting gun.

The Benefits of Dynamic Plume Models

Dynamic plume modeling tools expand on static plume modeling tools by incorporating real-time gas and weather data, giving you more accurate, up-to-date, and detailed information. Dynamic plume modeling software puts you in control by allowing you to monitor, model, and mitigate chemical releases in real time.

Identify Impacted Areas with Real-Time Data

Fast response time is vital for minimizing the damage of a chemical release. Dynamic models automatically incorporate real-time data from onsite gas and meteorological sensors to generate an accurate plume model, then track and monitor all aspects of a chemical release in one place from start to finish. This information can be overlaid on a mapping tool like Google Maps, so you can see what areas of your facility will be affected and whether the release will impact nearby communities. Dynamic models allow you to see which areas citizens will need to evacuate and whether traffic bottlenecks could pose safety risks so that you can create an alternative plan.

Communicate Effectively

As winds shift and conditions change, so does the plume model, giving incident commanders and responders the most accurate information about the incident. Accurately predicting the dispersion path, potential impact, and source of a chemical release allows you to communicate with confidence during an emergency. Without this real-time information, you’re left guessing where the plume might spread and preparing emergency crews, your workers, and the community for the worst-case scenario. This approach is not only less efficient; it also expends unnecessary resources, creates panic, and increases costs. With a dynamic plume model, you can create and share up-to-the-minute reports with stakeholders to ensure everyone has the information they need to respond swiftly and safely.

Whether a static or dynamic plume modeling tool is right for you, make sure you have one in your toolkit before your next emergency.

Dave Wagner

Dave Wagner is the director of applications engineering and product knowledge at Industrial Scientific and has more than 35 years of experience in the development and application of portable gas monitoring instruments and systems.


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