Highly-industrialized operations like petrochemical plants carry risks, including the possibility of large-scale disasters. In an effort to best prepare, stakeholders must understand these risks. The planned Shell ethane cracker and additional petrochemical operations being proposed for western Pennsylvania are the first of their kind in our region. Their newness meaning means that the public and elected officials are without a frame of reference as they consider approving them. Important stakeholders like first responders should be part of the planning process before a plant is approved and built. Additionally, lessons learned from emergencies at other Shell facilities should be made public earlier in the process so everyone involved has a clearer understanding of the potential risks before plans are finalized. Decisions about the Shell ethane cracker plant should be based on more than just the promise of jobs and economic prosperity.