The safety of business

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The information on the certificate is very basic -- business name, owner's names, address and type of business -- and may not give anyone a clue the business could somehow involve hazardous materials.

That was the case when an explosion ripped through Depressurized Technologies Inc. near the Minden airport in September 2001, killing one and injuring four other workers.

The blast is one of several that have a legislative committee looking into better ways to forewarn workers, the public and firefighting crews of potentially dangerous industries.

The committee's work is crucial, and we applaud state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, for his attention to the potential dangers lurking unseen and, perhaps, unknown at too many businesses.

The question, however, is not whether Douglas county government or its fire protection district have a clue as to potential hazards inside business, but what they are able to do about them. Clark County, Washoe County and Lyon County all have business licenses and all have had to deal with major explosions as well.

As former state fire marshal Eugene Williams pointed out on this page last year, without a statewide repository for "hazmat" information on businesses, any other solution will fall short.

The information on tens of thousands of businesses must be updated and accessible to health departments and emergency-response agencies, which means having adequate funding and enough manpower to conduct reasonable inspections. The central coordinator should be the state fire marshal, with support from local agencies and the state Health Department.

Plenty of regulations exist on what is a hazardous material, and which industrial processes need to be monitored by inspectors. What Nevada lacks are the resources to effectively collect, sort and disseminate information on potentially hazardous businesses. A Douglas County business license won't correct that deficiency.


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