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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies



There are two basic ways to control any type of spill: containment and confinement. Containment basically means restricting the material to its original container while confinement refers to limiting the physical size of the area of release. First responders should have an assortment of products for spill mitigation of a spill for both types of controls. Quick and simple actions by properly trained responders to minimize the amount of a spill as well as the area of involvement can reduce the amount of clean-up time and, thus, reduce the incident time frame requirements. For most traffic incidents involving incidental spills, Level II trained responders can effectively deal with the smaller vehicle spills if they have access to the appropriate equipment and materials. The impact of larger spills can be minimized by quick action, such as placing drain protection covers over the storm sewer inlets by DOT personnel. Properly trained responders can also reduce the incident time line in some cases involving minor vehicle crashes by having access to a spill kit containing an assortment of absorbents.

There are basically three types of spill kits. The type of spill kit that a first responder will use depends upon what liquids need to be cleaned up. The three main types are:

  1. Universal or General Purpose Spill Kits. Universal or general purpose spill kits contain gray absorbents made with activated charcoal or a similar capturing agent. Universal or general purpose spill kits are used to clean-up both water-based fluids and hydrocarbons.
  2. Oil-Only Spill Kits. Oil-only spill kits are used to clean-up hydrocarbons only (motor oil, jet fuel, diesel, gasoline, hydraulic oil, etc.) and contain white absorbents that repel and float on water.
  3. Hazmat Spill Kits. Hazmat spill kits contain yellow absorbents to clean-up aggressive fluids, such as acids and solvents, and will absorb hydrocarbons as well as water-based fluids.

The size of the spill is an important factor in determining the mitigation technique a first responder will use. Spill kits come in various sizes. For small volume spills, first responders may use bagged or bucket spill kits. For large volume spills, a drum or wheeled cart/mobile spill kit may be better suited. In each case, both types of spill kits are easily carried on a response vehicle and can provide safe containment of the material until proper disposal can be facilitated.

If first responders do not have a spill kits readily available, there are an assortment of products that can be purchased individually and combined to produce a custom spill kit. Some of the more important items are absorbents pads, absorbent booms, drain protector covers, spill containment berm dikes, and spill classifier strips. Table 7 provides some examples of spill mitigation products as well as common types of spill kits and is not meant to be a complete comprehensive list.

Table 7. Examples of Available Spill Mitigation Products and Common Types of Spill Kit (, 28, 29 30)