Chemical Safety:

Status of Changes to the National Fire Protection Association Code for Propane

GAO-01-709: Published: Jun 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 2001.

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Liquefied petroleum gas (propane) has thousands of uses in homes, farms, and workplaces and is widely available in the United States. Although propane can be stored and handled safely, serious propane-related accidents have resulted in death and the destruction of property. At times, the efforts of local emergency personnel to respond to such accidents have been impeded by lack of hazard and safety information. This report describes (1) relevant revisions to the 1998 version of the code that were published in the 2001 version, as well as the process used to revise the code, (2) the views of key stakeholders about whether the 2001 version of the code provides local emergency response personnel with enough information to prepare for and respond to emergencies involving propane, and (3) the status of state and local government adoption of the 2001 code. The 2001 version of the NFPA code strengthens provisions of previous versions regarding information on the off-site effects of accidental propane releases. According to the nine key stakeholders interviewed by GAO, the 2001 version of the code would make more information available to local emergency response personnel. All but one of the stakeholders said that additional changes to the code or the process for revising the code may be needed. GAO was unable to determine the overall status of state and local government adoption of the 2001 version of the code.

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