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Dave's Notes
Conveying Information

Industrial Fire World exists for one reason only -- to convey information. For 22 years, we've crammed our pages with every detail that might benefit an industrial firefighter. In 2006, the range of topics covered was indeed wide. We reported on how too many tanks squeezed together in common dikes contributed to the Buncefield Oil Storage Terminal fire. We detailed how toxic and combustible gases contribute to gradual degradation of gas detection equipment. We wrote about how beyond the billowing condensate of released LNG vapor is an invisible envelope of fumes well within the flammable range. IFW probed how static electrical discharge caused by the switch loading of diesel fuels can trigger massive storage tank fires.

We have built up a tremendous library of expertise in the last two decades. Just last week I had the unique opportunity to visit the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD as one of several representatives of industry participating in the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) program. It is a group of people who have been coming together for the last three years to put together model curriculi for associate degree and bachelor's degree programs involving fire and emergency response.

In an effort to acquire degree programs or a desired level of certification, fire service personnel typically accumulate college transcripts with unnecessary courses and dozens of training certificates. Typically they experience duplications of effort and desired certifications or degrees delayed. Working collaboratively, the firefighters participating in FESHE hope to produce a national model for an integrated, competency-based system of fire and emergency services professional development together with a national model for an integrated system of system of higher education from associate's-to-doctoral degrees. The result would be well-trained and academically-educated fire and emergency services preparing the nation for all hazards. The FESHA program is expanding and is now reaching into industry. Your local community or junior college may be missing a great opportunity to serve industrial firefighters. With FESHA developing the curriculum, all that might be necessary at the local level is a little seed money. For instance, suppose your plant handles hydrozine, best known as a component in rocket fuel. Not only emergency response people need special training but also the operations people and management. I'm not sure that industry has done the best job in utilizing the resources already at their disposal for training, namely the community colleges. To that end, representatives involved in FESHA will be on hand to spread the word at the Industrial Fire World Emergency Responder Conference & Exposition, March 26-30 in Beaumont, TX. A scope of the options is included in the outside wrap of this issue. If you who have never attended an IFW conference, you've missed a great deal. This is a conference for industrial emergency responders put together by industrial emergency responders. People who attend relate to each other on a very basic level best summarized by one question -- "How best do I protect the property and lives put in my charge?"

IFW is still charging forward to give our readers what they need. To that end, our conference this year is offering an array of certification courses to help meet the requirements of OSHA and other regulatory agencies. Brigade firefighters must train and then re-train regularly to keep their certification. Beyond that, you might be surprised that we even have a special NIMS class designed for plant managers. Over the years we have heard what has become the eternal lament of plant fire chiefs -- "Man, if I could just get my manager to understand what I am doing." To my knowledge, IFW is the only source offering such a course.

There is another lament from fire chiefs that I would like to see done away with. Time after time the fire chief faced with an industrial incident gets quoted in the newspapers saying the same thing -- "We had no idea what was on the other side of that fence." All too often the reason that the chief doesn't know is that he has never bothered to find out. I put it just that bluntly to an audience of fire officers in Emmitsburg. Unfortunately, too many fire chiefs act like the local plant or refinery comes complete with a moat and battlements to keep them out.

The federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities to submit MSDSs or chemical lists and emergency hazardous chemical inventory forms to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and the local fire department within five business days after the reportable hazardous chemical is present. It gives the local municipal fire chief all the authority he needs to get an accounting of hazardous material on hand at local plants and refineries, and the chance to pre-plan for emergencies, which is only fair since more and more local municipal firefighters are the only fire protection available.

In court, the lawyers say ignorance of the law is no excuse. For firefighters, ignorance despite the law is no excuse. Make a New Year's resolution to be a leader in your fire world.

Come learn about community college program development strategies and be involved in helping to make them valuable to industrial fire and emergency responders. Engage local fire department leaders as part of your training group that you bring to the conference. Start your action to fulfill your resolution -- register your group today for the IFW Emergency Responder Conference.

 
 

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