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Luck (and Physics) Meant No Fatalities in Chemical Blast

Nov 28, 20062 mins
Physical Security

The Boston Globe today reports on why a Nov. 22 chemical plant explosion in the middle of busy Danvers, just north of Boston, did not result in fatalities. (Read “How They Survived,” here.) The answers:

1. The early morning timing of the explosion. Workers weren’t there. The chemical plant was empty at the time of the blast in the early morning hours. This timing also meant that nearby residents were asleep, lying horizontal in bed under covers, in some cases protected from shards of glass from damaged windows.

2. The physics of the explosion. The force of the blast sent most debris upwards, and toward places where no buildings were, such as empty fields and a nearby river. When debris did hit nearby homes, most of it hit the roofs, which the Globe points out, are strong. The explosion’s rumblings, which the newspaper reported hit 0.5 on the Richter scale, were not strong enough to damage foundations.

So, while 10 people were hospitalized after the explosion, and the incident displaced 200 residents and damaged 70 homes and businesses, no one died.

Security executives and risk managers with experiences in industrial accidents, or with time spent participating in tabletop exercises and disaster recovery simulations could think of worse outcomes.

— Michael Goldberg