NFPA 400 Updated in Response to West, TX Explosion

West, TX
West, TX

The National Fire Protection Association recently made the 2016 edition of NFPA 400, its Hazardous Materials Code, available on its website. This edition contains a revised Chapter 11 with significant changes for the design, construction, and fire suppression systems of new facilities built to house ammonium nitrate (AN), two NFPA staffers reported during a June 1 session at the AIHce 2015 conference in Salt Lake City.

Nancy Pearce, CIH, a senior fire protection engineer at NFPA who is the staff liaison to the NFPA Hazardous Chemicals Committee, and Guy Colonna, P.E., an NFPA division manager, explained how a task group was formed following the West, Texas, fire and explosion at an AN storage facility in April 2013, with the mission of updating Chapter 11 in light of the lessons from that incident.

Fifteen people died in the explosion, 12 of whom were firefighters attempting to quench the fire at the West Fertilizer Company when 30 tons of stored AN exploded. With a middle school and a two-story apartment building located near the facility and heavily damaged, the toll could have been much worse, Colonna said. “The good news, if there’s any, is that it occurred at 7:30 [p.m.] rather than at 2 p.m., when kids would’ve been in that school,” he explained.

One lesson from the incident is the importance of maintaining adequate separation distances between hazardous processes and between facilities housing them and the greater community, he said, explaining that the nearby school and apartment building were erected after the storage facility was built.