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Old 12-18-2016, 01:12 PM
Backyardcreek Backyardcreek is offline
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Default How to prepare for major highway chemical spill



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Likely this has been discussed before unfortunately I've not located the threads nor locate verifiable factual info on the net.

Background: live +/- 30 miles from major interstate highway & major railroad. The interstate is active 24 hrs/7 days. Railroad is used 2-3 times a week accessing several chemical, production, industrial complexes.

My questions are these: how does a person prepare for a chemical spill? What is a 'safe' distance from a chemical spill (prefer to use worse case scenario in preparing)? Last, knowing that houses are not air tight, why do you hear 'authorities' state 'seal windows & doors' when there is a chemical spill (I.e. OTR truck accident & emergency broadcasted to stay inside, close windows/doors, do not go outside).

Thanks for any positive, verifiable info
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Old 12-18-2016, 01:18 PM
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Get a copy of the most recent U.S.D.O.T. Emergency Response Guidebook.
Color, alphabetically and numerically cross referenced.
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Old 12-18-2016, 01:30 PM
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You prepare by being ready to evacuate when necessary. It is not usually necessary to have chem gear for transportation chem spills. Check out the software linked in the stickied thread on mapping tools if you want to see what the footprints of chemical incidents might look like. Sealing up your home and ignoring official instructions to evacuate if directed to so is a good way to kill yourself.


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Old 12-18-2016, 01:51 PM
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Other than Chernobyl and 3-mile island,I don't think most areas are evacuated more than a mile or 2 radius.I'm guess most members her are 30 miles from a major Hwy/RR.

They tell you to leave,then leave.Sealinging the house is just a precaution.
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Old 12-18-2016, 09:53 PM
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The highways & rail lines are FULL of toxic matetials being transported 24/7 & it has been one of Homeland's greatest challenges. And there ARE no real good solutions to the threat.

How far is safe? L.E.O.'s are taught the "rule of thumb".
Hold your hand at arm's length . . .if you can't cover the spill with the end of your thumb . . .you're too close !

Monitor the wind.

And by the time they ID it as a hazmat breach & broadcast it to the public, way too much time will have passed for those near by.

There are no good solutions IMHO.
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Old 12-19-2016, 03:31 AM
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I work on the water and we load, discharge, and transport some of the most dangerous chemicals in the world. I am less than 50 foot away from this stuff all day everyday for 30 days at a time. The thing you need to worry about the most is H2S and benzene. You can get an H2S meter that will measure how much is in the air. I usually don't worry about anything unless ita over 15 ppm (parts per million). You could keep one and monitor it. H2S is can come from the ground and water naturally as well. Almost smells like eggs, the problem is that at high concentration it will kill your sense of smell immediately and you couldn't tell before your dead. Sure you would get nausea and headaches but if you cant smell it its too late. As for benzene, there is benzene bin everything chemical. Its a cancer causing agent that sometimes takes 20 years to develop. I wear a respirator when hooking up and disconnecting hoses if it is a high benzene content. Off hand i couldn't tell you if they make a benzene monitor. Hope this helps anyone, if you have any questions let me know! Also wouldn't be a bad idea to get a recent copy of the coast guard msds, this has all rhe information on products you would need, including the health risks.

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Old 12-19-2016, 11:14 AM
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The whole "duct-tape and plastic" thing grew out of fears of a follow-up terrorist CBRN attack after 9/11. IMHO, it was basically the modern day "duck and cover" recommendation, a feel-good measure to give people a sense of control over CBRN dangers they didn't really understand. My suspicion is that the recommendation was made to help deal with potential panic issues in large metropolitan areas like New York where quick, orderly evacuation likely wouldn't be possible following a CBRN incident. The thought being that the "duct and cover" plan might buy time for evacuation in the marginal areas and help alleviate some panic in other areas. As far as why protect in place? A cloud of say chlorine passing by your house (closed up with HVAC off) isn't going to instantly turn the atmosphere in your home lethal. It takes time for it to seep in via various routes. If the winds are sufficient, the plume may pass too quickly to seep in sufficiently. Most of the time responders are not going to take that chance in areas where outdoor concentrations are projected to reach incapacitating levels... they would push to evacuate everyone in those areas. But for less than incapacitating concentrations, protect-in-place becomes an option because evacuations can sometimes do more damage than the product itself.

The important thing to remember about ANY barrier to chemical agents is that they aren't universally effective against all chemicals. Some chemicals will penetrate sheeting faster than others. The same goes for masks and filters. I don't know that any real-world study has been done with the whole "duct and cover" recommendation. I know various thicknesses of sheeting have been tested against warfare agents like VX... but I doubt the Home Depot-grade stuff has been verified against the incredible array of toxic chemicals out there. It's not a bad idea to have some duct tape and visqueen around, just don't make it your plan A. Most responding agencies will have access to tools which can project what areas will be affected by lethal or incapacitating concentrations from a release so you should follow their instructions first and improvise second.

But let's get back to the OP's situation. 30 miles out from interstate or rail puts you at a pretty good distance from most incidents. But, you could still see haz-mat traffic on state highways or even nearby rural roads when it comes to stuff like anhydrous ammonia. My number one recommendation would be have an all-hazards radio, evacuation plan ready, bug-out bag, etc... the usual stuff. You don't need to get fixated on chemical gear and masks because they're really not necessary. At home, at that distance it's highly unlikely you'd be reached by anything other than a large chlorine release from a railcar and there will be plenty of warning time. There's lots of nasty stuff out there, but little of it is transported in quantities required to go that kind of distance without dissipating. Chlorine and Ammonia are going to be your top two threats. Ammonia at a much shorter distance, but with its use in farming, you can see it on rural roads virtually anywhere.

As for verifiable info, here is the info on duct tape and plastic:
https://fas.org/irp/threat/duct.pdf

Forgot a couple of other things. The 2016 version of the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook (which is usually the first book a responder will grab) is here: http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/staticfiles...at/ERG2016.pdf
It's also available as a mobile app.

Because chemical incidents are so diverse, it's impossible to claim a minimum safe distance for every spill. Yes, the old hazmat rule of thumb is a good one... but beyond that, the maximum initial (first 30 minutes) protection distance which is usually recommended by the ERG is 1 mile. Follow-up distances are determined using software packages like the ones stickied at the top of the subforum. The "safe distance" then depends on wind, weather conditions, and how far the plume will reach before dissipating to a level that no longer warrants concern.

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Old 12-20-2016, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by WImountainMan View Post
The whole "duct-tape and plastic" thing grew out of fears of a follow-up terrorist CBRN attack after 9/11. IMHO, it was basically the modern day "duck and cover" recommendation, a feel-good measure to give people a sense of control over CBRN dangers they didn't really understand. My suspicion is that the recommendation was made to help deal with potential panic issues in large metropolitan areas like New York where quick, orderly evacuation likely wouldn't be possible following a CBRN incident. The thought being that the "duct and cover" plan might buy time for evacuation in the marginal areas and help alleviate some panic in other areas. As far as why protect in place? A cloud of say chlorine passing by your house (closed up with HVAC off) isn't going to instantly turn the atmosphere in your home lethal. It takes time for it to seep in via various routes. If the winds are sufficient, the plume may pass too quickly to seep in sufficiently. Most of the time responders are not going to take that chance in areas where outdoor concentrations are projected to reach incapacitating levels... they would push to evacuate everyone in those areas. But for less than incapacitating concentrations, protect-in-place becomes an option because evacuations can sometimes do more damage than the product itself.
The duct tape and plastic is called Shelter in Place- and it was around long before 9/11. As a few example, think Israel during Desert Storm, Mt St Helens during the eruption, Oil and Gas rigs (explosive gasses or H2S), The area around Anniston (AL) Army Depot when they started the chemical weapons demil, etc. Is most cases, if you can avoid breathing outside air, the highest concentrations will pass you buy, become inert, or settle out of the air (thinking dirty bomb here.)

Standard military doctrine is to both SIP and use protective equipment- nothing is perfect and the SIP may make the garments 10-100x more effective. And yes, when I went to CBRN school at Ft McClelland, it was Home Depot (ie construction grade) 6 mil poly they recommended. No one is going to have a stock of special chemical resistant plastic and chem tape to protect shelters for thousands. (Though the Military grade duct tape is far better than most anything at home depot.) In fact some of the military expedient shelters are actually more venerable to chemical weapons since they tend to be build under/inground- so these were a high priority to give additional protection from agents typically designed to hug the ground.

The only place where I've seen mass CBRN shelters for entire populations was at Adak, AK where they expected to be repeatedly shelled with chemical weapons- I saw dozens of bunkers each capable of holding 200 or more people (laying down in stretcher like bunks)- and Im sure there were far more then I saw.
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Old 12-20-2016, 10:28 PM
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The duct tape and plastic is called Shelter in Place- and it was around long before 9/11. As a few example, think Israel during Desert Storm, Mt St Helens during the eruption, Oil and Gas rigs (explosive gasses or H2S), The area around Anniston (AL) Army Depot when they started the chemical weapons demil, etc. Is most cases, if you can avoid breathing outside air, the highest concentrations will pass you buy, become inert, or settle out of the air (thinking dirty bomb here.)

Standard military doctrine is to both SIP and use protective equipment- nothing is perfect and the SIP may make the garments 10-100x more effective. And yes, when I went to CBRN school at Ft McClelland, it was Home Depot (ie construction grade) 6 mil poly they recommended. No one is going to have a stock of special chemical resistant plastic and chem tape to protect shelters for thousands. (Though the Military grade duct tape is far better than most anything at home depot.) In fact some of the military expedient shelters are actually more venerable to chemical weapons since they tend to be build under/inground- so these were a high priority to give additional protection from agents typically designed to hug the ground.

The only place where I've seen mass CBRN shelters for entire populations was at Adak, AK where they expected to be repeatedly shelled with chemical weapons- I saw dozens of bunkers each capable of holding 200 or more people (laying down in stretcher like bunks)- and Im sure there were far more then I saw.
My point was that the OP should follow the instructions of the local emergency planners. If they say SIP, then SIP, if they say leave, then leave. If they have duct tape and plastic around, great. But too many people who visit this forum think buying a $24 30+ y/o gas mask, a 20+ y/o chem suit, some duct tape and visqueen means they're ready for a cloud of VX, GB, H, or whatever. They get this idea that they suddenly know better than the CSTs advising state and local officials and will thus be better off "doing their own thing" even when told to get the hell out. Those are the people we'll end up finding in pools of their own bodily fluids doing the "floppy crappie."
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Old 12-21-2016, 07:05 AM
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If you have a smart phone the Wiser app is a great resource. I'm a lab tech at a specialty chemical plant and also a certified hazmat technician. Be prepared to shelter in place in the event of a large scale release. As previously posted, shut off your hvac and stay tuned to the local emergency channel for updates and information. In the even that an evacuation is required, pay attention to your route and wind direction.
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Old 12-23-2016, 10:51 AM
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I've responded to tanker crashes on a major interstate. If there is any information of a hazardous leak, we immediately shut it down from both directions and prioritize getting people out of the immediate area.

We've had a couple of fires from fuel tankers. Those things melt the asphalt and can get pretty large.
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Old 12-23-2016, 11:20 AM
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depends on the chemical
flammable, risk is fire/explosion
corrosive will depend on what form, liquid corrosive threat is to those risking contact,
other threats are from toxics in form of vapor,
unless you want to help getting others out, i wouldnt recommend getting any closer to a spill , breathing in the vapors to look at the label,
let trained agency/officers inspect and instruct you,
best you can do is put as much distance between you and the spill as possible,
if its a hazard in vapor form, then do need to be wary of wind direction
if your sitting in your car and not ready to abandon the vehicle
then i would recommend closing windows and turning on recirculating feature of AC, to minimize outside air coming in
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Old 12-23-2016, 10:04 PM
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How far is safe? L.E.O.'s are taught the "rule of thumb".
Hold your hand at arm's length . . .if you can't cover the spill with the end of your thumb . . .you're too close !
Yeah, I remember the rule of thumb. We were also taught that it only applied if you were UPWIND. If you were downwind we were taught there was no safe distance until the exact nature of the spill was determined, so get upwind ASAP. After the exact nature and extent of the emergency was determined then they could decide how far of an evacuation area was needed, including downwind considerations.

I was the first guy on site at a nuclear reactor when it had a bit of an emergency. Because of... reasons, I had to suit up in some protective gear (unfortunately rather limited in nature) and go right in to get readings from some sensors. It made me laugh a bit (in a grim sort of way) when in the distance I saw everyone else responding, judiciously following the rule of thumb, as I was right in there basically being the canary. For years I wondered if I'd ever be able to have kids or if the family jewels had been irradiated too much. Luckily, I found out later I was still able to. I guess we'll see about the cancer thing as time goes on.

In another case there was a semi that overturned on a remote stretch of freeway. Driver walked to get help (before cell phones were common), called 911 at the nearest phone and let them know it was carrying some kind of hazardous material but didn't have specifics. He left the paperwork in the truck. The accident tore the trailer right open and a white powder was spread across the road surface. State police closed the freeway both directions a mile or so away from the crash.

One young trooper with more balls than brains volunteered to drive through at 100mph figuring some of the powder would collect on the rear bumper like dust does on a dirt road, then the techs could sample it to test what it was. For obvious reasons, that idea was vetoed. They sent in a guy in serious HAZMAT gear to sample it and if possible get the paperwork. Turned out to be a massive shipment of cyanide. That was a large, very pricey cleanup. Good thing they held that wide quarantine area.

Safe distance depends on an awful lot of factors, not limited to the type of spill/emergency, environmental conditions, etc. You can take some basic precautions by having your own protective gear, but to properly protect a facility from that sort of contamination takes a lot of money. Massive high efficiency filtration systems, positive pressurization of structures and whatnot.

You could conceivably set up a short-term safe room in your house. Seal it as well as possible, have some SCUBA tanks in there with the right kind regulator. Have the tank continually releasing enough air to slightly positively pressurize the room. You could stay in there as long as your supplies and air tanks last. Not a perfect solution, but it's something. I mean, if you REALLY wanted to prepare for that sort of crisis.
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Old 12-28-2016, 08:15 PM
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Default How to prepare for major highway chemical spill

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I was the first guy on site at a nuclear reactor when it had a bit of an emergency. Because of... reasons, I had to suit up in some protective gear (unfortunately rather limited in nature) and go right in to get readings from some sensors. It made me laugh a bit (in a grim sort of way) when in the distance I saw everyone else responding, judiciously following the rule of thumb, as I was right in there basically being the canary. For years I wondered if I'd ever be able to have kids or if the family jewels had been irradiated too much. Luckily, I found out later I was still able to. I guess we'll see about the cancer thing as time goes on.
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.
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You could conceivably set up a short-term safe room in your house. Seal it as well as possible, have some SCUBA tanks in there with the right kind regulator. Have the tank continually releasing enough air to slightly positively pressurize the room. You could stay in there as long as your supplies and air tanks last. Not a perfect solution, but it's something. I mean, if you REALLY wanted to prepare for that sort of crisis.



LOL dude you're so full of it. There's no way you went into a potentially damaged reactor, or any other kind of nuclear facility, with no instrumentation, no dosimeter, no film badge... and no health physicist escorting you. I can absolutely believe the white powder story... I've met some pretty dumb State Troopers and truck drivers... and it certainly wouldn't be the first time a driver "forgot" to grab the manifest after they spilled their loads.

But cracking an 80cf SCUBA tank to create a positive-pressure environment in a 800cf room? Come on.

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Old 12-29-2016, 12:56 PM
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LOL dude you're so full of it. There's no way you went into a potentially damaged reactor, or any other kind of nuclear facility, with no instrumentation, no dosimeter, no film badge... and no health physicist escorting you. I can absolutely believe the white powder story...

But cracking an 80cf SCUBA tank to create a positive-pressure environment in a 800cf room? Come on.
I respect your right to your own opinion on this.

Clearly the reactor story is sparse on details. That's on purpose. If I gave you all the details it might make more sense to you, but I can't do that. No, I did not have a dosimeter or film badge available to me and yes, I was alone. I realize that a lot of regulations were probably not followed that day. As time moves on, society is getting a lot better at enforcing accountability in these sorts of things, and I'm glad to see it happening. You can believe the story or not, I don't care.

I'd never imagined I'd ever have personal need for my own radiological detection equipment, but after that, as soon as it was practical to do so I sure as heck went out and bought a couple detectors and some dosimeters to keep around for a rainy day. I haven't needed them yet. Hopefully I never will.

As for positively pressurizing a room, I'm no physicist or engineer. I don't know what level of effectiveness there would be using canned air in a closed room with taped up windows but I'd rather have some positive pressure as opposed to none, even if it was only a little bit. I can't imagine it would be LESS effective than just taping plastic over the windows and doing nothing else, like FEMA suggests in such an emergency. If nothing else it would at least be less stuffy introducing some clean air in a sealed up room with several sets of lungs breathing the same air for hours, or longer.
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Old 12-30-2016, 10:21 AM
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I respect your right to your own opinion on this.



Clearly the reactor story is sparse on details. That's on purpose. If I gave you all the details it might make more sense to you, but I can't do that. No, I did not have a dosimeter or film badge available to me and yes, I was alone. I realize that a lot of regulations were probably not followed that day. As time moves on, society is getting a lot better at enforcing accountability in these sorts of things, and I'm glad to see it happening. You can believe the story or not, I don't care.



I'd never imagined I'd ever have personal need for my own radiological detection equipment, but after that, as soon as it was practical to do so I sure as heck went out and bought a couple detectors and some dosimeters to keep around for a rainy day. I haven't needed them yet. Hopefully I never will.



As for positively pressurizing a room, I'm no physicist or engineer. I don't know what level of effectiveness there would be using canned air in a closed room with taped up windows but I'd rather have some positive pressure as opposed to none, even if it was only a little bit. I can't imagine it would be LESS effective than just taping plastic over the windows and doing nothing else, like FEMA suggests in such an emergency. If nothing else it would at least be less stuffy introducing some clean air in a sealed up room with several sets of lungs breathing the same air for hours, or longer.

I apologize for the knee-jerk BS call, I guess I didn't consider the era this may have occurred in. If you can PM any additional details which aren't subject classification rules, I would love to hear more about the incident. I'm always up for "lessons learned" stories.
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Old 12-30-2016, 10:41 AM
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Safe distance depends greatly on wind speed and the nature of the release.
I used to model chemical releases when I was at an operating facility using a program by radian corp called CHARMS. Chemical hazardous Atmospheric Release Modelling System. You could simulate a complete tank rupture, or a broken process pipe of any size and supply pressure. It would then calculate and print out dispersion plume concentration maps. The goal was to automate this with live weather data, and have it automatically notify any impacted downwind residents, schools, hospitals, responders, etc.

The wind is ALWAYs blowing somewhat, so sheltering in place, even if your shelter is not airtight, reduces your personal exposure as the plume passes by.

It has been a long time, but I think if you are over about 4 miles away, you are pretty safe from most things.

Not a bad idea to have a full face 3M respirator and a box of P-100 filters. My house is pretty airtight and I have HEPA HVAC filters and 4 ionic precipitators running all the time. Chimney flue pipe and bathroom/kitchen/laundry power vents are the only real openings to outside. Close the flu and leave the power vents off.
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Old 09-08-2017, 07:02 AM
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Same story here bud. I was studying at a government civilian university using army scholarship. They always use military cadets cum students to conduct dangerous research using very little PPE and non-standard and potentially unsafe SOP. I routinely handle dangerous chemicals and bacteriological agents using nothing but an "meat butcher" rubber apron, paper thin surgical gloves and a N95 disposable mask that is possibly a cheap Chinese made knock off. I remember spilling these agents on a table and suddenly all the researchers ran away and locked me inside the room. They told me not to panic (why do you guys run away in the first place) and activated the UV sterilization lights that lighted the whole room for an hour (which if I faintly remembered in the manual,recommends people to evac the room before switching on the lights due to cancer risks). As my officers stated, military cadets are cheap,stupid and expendable. I sure hope you US people don't treat ROTC cadets the same way like how my country treat their cadets. I live somewhere in an Asia.
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:05 PM
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Yeah, I remember the rule of thumb. We were also taught that it only applied if you were UPWIND. If you were downwind we were taught there was no safe distance until the exact nature of the spill was determined, so get upwind ASAP.
Except where upwind is downhill, in which case, many vapours (those that are more dense than air - gasoline/petrol, ammonia, LPG/natural gas, to name a few...) hug the ground and can actually travel against a light wind.
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Old 09-09-2017, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by MBI View Post
I respect your right to your own opinion on this.

As for positively pressurizing a room, I'm no physicist or engineer. I don't know what level of effectiveness there would be using canned air in a closed room with taped up windows but I'd rather have some positive pressure as opposed to none, even if it was only a little bit. I can't imagine it would be LESS effective than just taping plastic over the windows and doing nothing else, like FEMA suggests in such an emergency. If nothing else it would at least be less stuffy introducing some clean air in a sealed up room with several sets of lungs breathing the same air for hours, or longer.
A SCUBA tank isn't going to do anything for posative pressure, it might be nice to blow off some CO2 and humidity from the enclosed space. I don't remember any specs on SCUBA, but SCBA's hold in the range of 75 cuft of air for the larger, higher pressure units (SCBA is what firefighters and HAZMAT personal wear). Thats not enough to make a difference for more than a few minutes in the average CONUS residential room.

For less money you could get an industrial cylinder of air (breathing grade or not) holding 330 cu ft. Running that air straight (via regulators and tubes) into a mask would be more effective. You could suck off it for hours (though what you breath in will contain some room air.)

Where people take Shelter in Place more seriously (buildings in chemical plants, Govt offices in DC, certain areas around chemical plants) they do have SIP kits which make it quick to seal off the room (precut 6 mil poly, duct tape, ect.) We tested some of the kits near anniston army depot, which also included an air filter- it just cycled room air through activated charcoal, which would help reduce levels of what ever toxins entered the building.

If you want positive pressure, you need to pull outside air through a filter. Ive seen this done in NBC shelters where they felt the risk of chemical attack was very real (and it probably was if we ever went to war). My employer also operates buildings that directly support national security, and they were designed with a positive pressure across NBC filters for the whole building- this was done for fallout protection, chemical attack protection, and the fear that someone could use riot agents to disrupt operations. We abandoned the "NBC" ventilation at most facilities, but still maintain powered air purifying resperators (PAPRs) for all on duty personal- which have been used occasionally as when a motor started smoking and filled parts of the building with acrid smoke.

If a dirty bomb were ever detonated, SIP would dramatically cut everyone's exposure. People could SIP until the contaminated area could be determined, wait for the dust to settle, and put on booties and be shuttled out of the area on city busses. Decon resources could be concentrated on those contaminated, and screening limited to those who came from the contaminated area.

As for the OP: I wouldn't concern myself about anything 30 miles away, and fitting on a railroad car or semi. Absent absurd possibilities, contamination of the water supply would be the biggest risk.
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