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How Four Diamonds Could Save Your Life

Originally posted August 01, 2013 by Jack Rubinger on https://www.duralabel.com

While no facility manager relishes the thought of a HazMat team storming their building, being prepared for chemical spills, fires, and explosions is smart, helps save time for emergency responders, and most importantly is a matter of compliance, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Found everywhere from farms to factories, gas stations to rail cars, the NFPA Diamond communicates what could happen when disaster strikes based on what materials and chemicals are present in the environment, and how responders need to react to safely stabilize the situation. First adopted as a guide more than 50 years ago, NFPA 704 spells out the standard system for the identification of the hazards of materials for emergency response.

The NFPA 704 placard is the initial building block of an emergency response plan. Fire and safety division chief Dave Nemeyer from Forest Grove, Oregon elaborated, “There’s no way that any fire department can have intimate knowledge of every building, so having as much information about one when we respond is vital to incident commanders. Adequate and correct NFPA 704 signage is just one component, but when you combine that with a good pre-fire plan of the building, it’s almost as good as it gets.”

Ultimately, we all benefit from recognizing the NFPA Diamond. The four color quadrants include blue for health hazard, red for fire hazard, yellow for instability and white for other hazard.

The blue, red and yellow color categories include a numeric value representing level of hazard.

0 = Minimal

1 = Low

2 = Moderate

3 = Serious

4 = Extreme

The white diamond identifies the specific hazard.

OX = Oxidizer

ACID = Acid

ALK = Alkalai

COR = Corrosive

* = No water

 = Radiation

Trained emergency personnel can quickly interpret NFPA diamond messaging, then determine the procedures, precautions, and types of special equipment best suited to deal with the situation.

“A visible 704 may have the effect of making a responder more cautious, especially if it is at a location a firefighter doesn’t typically associate with chemicals, like an office building,” explained Jim Williams, EMS field operations manager at Medical Center EMS in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

What happens when it’s “show time” is different for facility managers, emergency responders, and those who are unfortunate victims of chemical spills, fires, explosions and other disasters. But when lives are at stake, fully understanding the NFPA standard could be the difference between life and death. Joining the colorful NFPA Diamond are new global standards (GHS labels) for identifying, storing and transporting chemicals.