Live near the port? Be aware and alert - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Live near the port? Be aware and alert

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  • Behind the scenes at the Port of Tampa

    Behind the scenes at the Port of Tampa

    Monday, February 11 2013 10:08 PM EST2013-02-12 03:08:01 GMT
    Cruises are the part of the Port of Tampa many know well. But there is so much more going on dockside. FOX 13 spent four months behind the scenes, learning how the port's many tentacles touch our everyday lives.
    Cruises are the part of the Port of Tampa many know well. But there is so much more going on dockside. FOX 13 spent four months behind the scenes, learning how the port's many tentacles touch our everyday lives.
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

When I covered a fire in a storage tank at the Port of Tampa last summer, I began to think: What are the dangers to those of us who live within a few miles of the port?

At the time of that emergency, an alert went out on the Alert Tampa system that texted and emailed residents in parts of downtown, the Channel District, and Harbor Island, advising them to stay inside their homes.

My first piece of advice for your family's safety is to join Alert Tampa by visiting https://www.tampagov.net/dept_police/programs_and_services/alert_tampa.asp. The system will alert you to danger, whether it's from the port or something else.

Fortunately, the storage tank fire was put out and the alert was lifted. But just because nothing came of that incident doesn't mean a real danger can't occur.

MOON SUITS AND SIRENS

If a leak or other emergency occurs at the port, a cloud of hazardous gas could rise and drift over nearby neighborhoods. Emergency officials may tell you to evacuate or to shelter in your home. That's why you should enroll for Alert Tampa.

Also, in parts of South Tampa nearest to the port, a system of sirens and loudspeakers can be activated which will announce the nature of the emergency and what you should do to avoid danger.

One of the most potentially dangerous cargos entering the port is anhydrous ammonia, but there are many others too. How do they stop a leak if one occurs? Emergency plumbers wearing "moon suits" are called in.

THE PLUMBERS

Actually, they're more than plumbers. They're highly-trained hazmat firefighters from Tampa Fire Rescue and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. Recently, they put me in one of their moon suits to get a firsthand look.

In a simulated emergency, I was sent in with a crew of Tampa hazmat firefighters to stop a huge leak of acid from an overturned semi.

First, if you are at all claustrophobic, don't put on a moon suit. It's hot and confining and difficult to maneuver in.

As we closed in on the leak, the officer handed me a large wooden plug and a rubber mallet. This is where the rudimentary but critical plumbing comes in. Wearing the moon suit and heavy gloves, I had to pound the plug into the punctured tank. My first attempt failed, but with a little more muscle, I was able to plug the hole and stop the leak.

Our moon-suited crew made its way back to the staging area where they checked my vital signs. As you may be able to tell at the time of this writing, I survived.

LIFE IN THE PORT CITY

Many of us who live near the port hardly think about it, but the hazmat firefighters think about it every day. They often visit the port just to observe the tanks, piping, access, hydrants, suppression systems, and other equipment. They develop plans on how to handle every conceivable emergency.

However, they admit that, even though the port has a good safety record, dangers can occur.

My advice: If you live anywhere near the port, know that it is a great asset for our community, but also a busy terminal handling some potentially hazardous cargo. Be alert.

PORT CARGO

PORT TOURS AVAILABLE

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