Article Archive
Risk Assessment
More on Advance Preplanning
Vol. 21 No. 1

In past articles we focused on basic fire protection features found in most buildings and how to incorporate them into your pre-plans. These features included sprinkler systems, water supplies, smoke and heat vents, and firewalls. We hope we have demonstrated that it is not enough to simply note that a building has sprinklers on the pre-plan and be done with it. It is essential to know what to expect from the systems, how to keep them functioning in the middle of the fire, and what you are going to do if they fail or if they are not adequate for the hazard to begin with.

In this article, I would like to expand on some specific things to consider that you may not have thought of before. It is not possible to cover every circumstance that you might encounter but my hope is that this article will get you thinking about the industry you protect and the hazards you face. By reviewing the titles of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards you may find one that matches a hazard for which you are responsible.

Lets say that you are responsible for protecting a power generating plant. Did you know that NFPA 850, Recommended Practice for Fire Protection for Electric Generating Plants and High Voltage Direct Current Converter Stations, has guidance on how to deal with a fires in some of the specialized equipment found at power plants?

Of major concern to emergency responders with responsibility for a power plant is whether or not the turbine lube oil system should be shut down in the event of a lube oil fire. Conventional firefighting wisdom might be to shut the system down but this could result in major damage (multi-millions of dollars) so the plant will likely want to let it run until the turbine stops spinning. Both the plant and public responders should understand this and decide ahead of time what will be done. There are methods that can be used to bring the turbine to a stop more rapidly and the fire department can adjust their operation for a flowing oil fire during this time period.

At a flammable liquids seminar, the story was told of a case where plant operators kept adding oil to the reservoir long after the turbine stopped because they were taught never to let the oil reservoir empty out no matter what. This fueled the fire longer than necessary. This illustrates why both the plant and public responders need to understand each other's objectives. Additional information can be found in Annex D of NFPA 850. I strongly recommend that plant operators and emergency responders review this annex together and reach a consensus prior to an incident.

Looking at a more common hazard, consider the case where foam will be needed for a flammable liquids hazard. Let's say that the fire department has a bypass foam eductor installed on its pumper. These systems have limits on the length of hose that can be used. If the pumper cannot get close enough to the hazard, what will be done? It may be possible to use a larger diameter hose to supply the nozzle but you want to know this ahead of time, not when the firefighter is standing there with no foam at the nozzle.

Perhaps you are using an around the pump proportioner instead. That takes care of hose length problems but introduces problems with intake pressures. The models I am familiar with either have specific intake pressure limitations or a maximum difference between intake and discharge pressure. Most industrial facilities have relatively high water pressure and the pump operator needs to be able to operate under those conditions. Again, the time to practice is before the fire. If foam cannot be actually discharged during training due to environmental concerns, it is still possible to practice pressure regulation to the manufacture's recommendations. The pump operator should be able to adjust as incoming pressures change.

Let's look at one final example. You protect a facility that uses a thermal oil heat transfer system. The most important thing of course is that you know it is there and the basic hazards you will face. Information on these hazards can be found in NFPA 30, GE GAP Guideline 7.1.5 or FM Data Sheet 7-99. The FM Data Sheet contains information on emergency procedures for fires involving these units. Although many of these procedures would be the responsibility of the system operator, the emergency responder should know if the operators are properly trained so that they will know what to expect. A mechanism should be in place to report to the incident commander what has been done .

These are just a few of the myriad of industrial hazards that should be preplanned. If you would like to discuss what publications might be able to help you with your industrial pre-planning efforts, please contact the author at

GE Global Asset Protection Services, LLC specializes in property loss prevention services & consulting, and provides risk management solutions designed for property risk managers. We offer a continuum of fully customizable services, such as support placing property insurance requirements, minimizing property loss frequency & severity, data management and integrated consulting recommendations and solutions. GE Global Asset Protection Services, LLC is a global service provider with 115 years of experience, offering industrial, manufacturing, service, mining & utility occupancy expertise, with online, real-time web tools & reports around the clock, and around the globe. Please visit


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