Article Review

The Article Critique should include the following components:


1. A brief introduction of the article

2. A statement on the implications of the article for the Emergency Responder to an incident involving hazardous materials

3. Analysis of the key points in the article

4. Summary of the article’s conclusions and your own opinions


The completed assignment must be two pages , double-spaced, and follow APA Style guidelines.

Title: On the scene with CAMEO

Author(s): Tony Jover and Jean Snider

Source: EPA Journal. 15.3 (May-June 1989): p20.

Document Type: Article

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1989 U.S. Government Printing Office Full Text:

Not long ago, fire department personnel responding to fires or other incidents involving hazardous materials were severely hampered by a lack of information. More often than not, they didn’t know either the nature of the chemicals involved or the problems they would face on arrival at the scene.

Today, such lack of information need no longer be a problem. Computerized emergency and chemical information data systems are available to provide the vital information, even before the response team gets to the fire or hazardous material spill.

CAMEO–which stands for Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations–is one of these systems. A computer program developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and EPA to help firefighters and emergency managers respond effectively to HAZMAT incidents, CAMEO is already being used by about 3,000 fire departments and emergency management agencies. The Macintosh version of CAMEO contains response recommendations for over 2,600 chemicals, an air dispersion model, and the capability to access local maps and information stored in the community–information required to be provided to local government and response personnel under the Title III Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know amendments to Superfund.

How does this emergency information system work? Just suppose you are fictional fire lieutenant Joe Sackler when the firehouse bells sound at 2:35 A.M…. Sackler jumps from his bunk and wipes the sleep from his eyes. It was only a short catnap, but it sure has helped; in the last 10 hours, he and his crew have been through several fire runs and one hazardous material incident. Now the bells and the public address system are signifying another HAZMAT problem: a strange sulfur-like smell being reported by people living near the Freeland Chemical Company.

As the fire officer pulls his boots on, he thinks about the way HAZMAT runs used to be–and how they have changed over the past two years. Formerly, firemen responding to a hazardous materials incident or a fire involving chemicals had no idea what they might encounter when they arrived on site. This was especially true when the incident was at one of the smaller, marginally profitable companies. On “pre-fire” visits to such facilities to determine what chemicals might be stored on the site and the location of fire hydrants, fire department inspectors were often rebuffed by owners who said, in effect, “Trust us, we are safe operators and will take care of any spills on our property. The people who live around here won’t be affected.”

Although most plant operators are responsible and cooperative, one bad incident involving a “fly-by-night” operator was enough to convince the lieutenant that his department must have all available information in its possession and readily accessible when the alarm sounds. In the past, it was simply too uncertain and nerve-wracking to depend on others to provide it after the firefighters reached the scene–assuming, of course, that someone was there on site with the necessary information.

But now things are different. Lieutenant Sackler has his Mac (nickname for the Macintosh computer)! He jumps into the back of the HAZMAT van as the driver pulls out of the firehouse. While the driver switches on the siren and flashing lights, Sackler turns on his computer and calls up his CAMEO system. The sooner he knows what problems they face, the better off they’ll be.

As the van races down the street and the sirens wail outside, Sackler hears the familiar sound of the computer warming up and sees the smiling face on the Macintosh before CAMEO’s opening screen comes up. This is the “Navigator,” which allows him to select the data base he needs by a simple click of the mouse, pointing to the picture representing the data base he wants. First, he reads what chemicals Freeland Chemical has stored on its premises. Next, he learns the name of the company contact person and how to reach him if he is not already at the site, in order to verify the chemical identification.

Fortunately, his Captain previously insisted on stepping up efforts to survey the chemical plants in the community, especially since new federal laws provide additional leverage to collect critical information from chemical facilities on what hazardous chemicals were stored in the community, and to plan for possible accidents. As a result, the information is in his CAMEO program, organized in a logical retrieval form, including recommendations for response actions. The new law–popularly known as SARA Title III–and the computer program have certainly reduced much of the uncertainty associated with past HAZMAT runs.

From the CAMEO screen, Sackler learns that Freeland has a number of nasty substances that could produce a sulfur smell. He checks out methyl disulfide and sulfur tetrafluoride to see which would be the more likely culprit and what types of problems these particular chemicals might cause firemen trying to control the situation.

The van sways as the driver races over potholes and around corners. The lieutenant wishes his boots were bolted down, like the computer. CAMEO has more to tell him: only sulfur tetrafluoride is a gas and likely to give off a sulfur smell. And, says CAMEO, to control a spill the firemen are going to have to suit up in full gear with protective breathing apparatus AND NOT USE WATER!

Next question: where is the stuff stored (and what would be a good staging area)? Click, and the screen shows the facility site plan. More questions: Who would be affected by the fumes? The worst-case scenario run several months earlier had shown several schools in the area, although they would not be in session at this hour, and hospitals are out of range of the airborne plume, given the amount of the chemical stored by Freeland. But a rest home is close by. What kind of ventilation does it have? Can it be shut off for a few hours? Click: the answer.

Now, as the van nears the scene, Sackler and his crew are ready for what they have to do. What a difference from the old days, when they spent precious time on arrival to get the same information they are ready with as the van rocks to a stop … thanks to CAMEO!

CAMEO’s Macintosh version (15 diskettes and a manual) is available from the National Safety Council (312-527-4800) for $115. An MS-DOS compatible version on 9-track tape including only the chemical data base and vulnerability calculation (and lacking graphics capability and Title III information) is available from NOAA (206-526-6317) at no cost.

(Jean Snider is with the Hazardous Materials Response Branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tony Jover is Director of the Information Management and Program Support Staff in EPA’s Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office.)

Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition) Jover, Tony, and Jean Snider. “On the scene with CAMEO.” EPA Journal 15.3 (1989): 20+. Academic OneFile. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

Document URL

Gale Document Number: GALE|A16476145


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