When chemical accidents happen, they often have catastrophic effects on communities. In 1984, a gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, resulted in nearly 4,000 deaths and over 500,000 injuries. It is considered the world’s worst industrial disaster. In response to this, and other incidents, State Emergency Response Commissions were formed for each state in 1986 to oversee the implementation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act provisions within its state.
Researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) have worked with Local Emergency Planning Committees in Texas since the 1990s to research best practices and develop guidelines for transporting hazardous materials for local governments, as they are the first line of defense during emergencies and disasters. A hazardous materials (hazmat) commodity flow study helps communities identify specific transportation hazards in their jurisdiction. However, identifying materials and transit routes is only the first step. Further analysis is needed to determine how those hazards affect public safety and how communities can prepare to respond to those hazards. In 2016, TTI developed a document that helps local decision makers address both these responsibilities.