"Canton Fire Shows Gaps in Information for Responders"

"Dispatched to a one-story brick warehouse in flames on Baylis Street in [the] Canton [neighborhood of Baltimore, Md.] last month, firefighters did not know it contained 8,000 gallons of corrosive chemicals. But not because it wasn't known to the Baltimore City Fire Department."

"Its hazardous materials permit database included the warehouse and chemicals, but is so arcane that it's impossible to point and click through it using a computer mouse.

The chemicals also were disclosed by the owner on an annual hazmat form required under a federal law inspired when a chemical gas leak killed 5,000 people in India in 1984.

But those sources aren't married with others that identify flagged buildings in the city's emergency dispatch system, called upon multiple times every day to send police, firefighters and ambulances to scenes of danger around the city. No single database contains a complete picture of all the information that might be relevant in emergency response, whether it's the presence of chemicals, a disabled person or a lack of exits, city fire officials said."

Scott Dance reports for the Baltimore Sun May 6, 2012.

Source: Baltimore Sun, 05/08/2012