Is Poor Safety Data a Bigger Threat Than Terrorists?

August 28, 2013

A Dallas Morning News investigation published August 24, 2013, found that nine times out of ten, government information about chemical safety was wrong or missing.

Since 9/11, agencies like the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation have rushed to hide formerly public information about their safety performance. They have justified this by claiming the information would be useful to terrorists. But given the government's accuracy record, it almost seems as if releasing it to terrorists would blind and confuse them, rendering them nearly powerless 90 percent of the time. Sadly, that same bad information (or lack of it) is what first responders depend on to save their own lives and the communities they serve.

So it was in West, Texas, where an April 2013 fertilizer explosion killed 15 people, most of them firefighters who did not understand the threat they faced.

The Dallas News' story of bad chemical-safety data is a story of government's incompetence at keeping the public safe. It demonstrates that secrecy — rather than protecting the public from terrorists — merely protects the government and the corporations from the public.

You can use the four databases used by the Dallas News to find chemical safety stories in your own community — even if the databases are wrong nine times out of ten.

National Response Center

National Fire Incident Reporting System

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

US Chemical Safety Board