Carl Anderson of PetroSafe Technologies pursued a career in industrial fire fighting, emergency response and incident management during a period of great change and innovation. Today, with more than 42 years experience, he specializes in passing on the experience, the knowledge and the lessons he and many others have learned to a new generation of industrial professionals who are eager to learn.
"When I began my career, we just didn’t have the knowledge, equipment or the tools we have today," Anderson said. "In response to fires, we would place a lot of responders on handlines and there was a surround and drown approach to fire fighting. We didn’t have a formal incident management system or a lot of the tools that we have today. How we didn’t kill more people… was only by the grace of God watching over those that would dare to respond."
There is no need for young emergency responders to travel down that same road to know what we have learned in this process, Anderson said.
"This is now my mission and my passion… to make sure the people who follow us don’t have to go through what we went through to know what we already know," Anderson said. "That’s what drives and motivates me everyday."
Anderson, a safety, fire and emergency services professional in the petroleum industry, formed PetroSafe ten years ago. Today, he and a select group of industrial professionals relentlessly travel the U.S. providing a broad range of industrial emergency response and incident management training and consulting services.
"The underlying principles of successful emergency response and incident management remain the same no matter what kind of business you’re in," Anderson said. "We’ve learned a heck of a lot over the years and we have a lot to share."
For example, when evaluating response capabilities for an industrial facility, one of the first things Anderson and his team will look at is the fire water supply.
"We ask ‘Do you have a dedicated fire water system?’" Anderson said. "Then we would like to have a look it. We ask about the sizing of underground mains and the pumping capacity and maintenance of the drivers and pumps. We also ask if they have determined what the worst case fire water demands might be in an emergency. We then explain ‘If there is insufficient water or a fire water supply problem in response to a major fire, it will not be a good day for the response organization. The dangerous and destructive nature of the fire will not wait until you can somehow get the water you need.’"
Although a reliable water supply is elementary to safe, effective and efficient response to fire, IFW readers would likely be surprised at the conditions that we actually find in the field, Anderson said.
On at least one occasion, the ability to ask the perfect question about incident management left the senior safety person at an industrial facility in awe.
"After we immediately identified a weakness, he looked at me and said ‘How do you know all that?" Anderson said. "I didn’t think it was anything special and it surprised me when he came at me with the question. What we bring to our customers is instinctive. Our team of professionals has the experience to ask the right questions and when we find a loose thread, we begin to pull on that thread until we find the root of any weakness. We’ve just been doing this work for so long we typically know where the weaknesses are. That’s usually where we start."
His years in the business have given him the opportunity to work beside and learn from many of the best industrial fire fighters in the world, including Dwight Williams with Williams Fire & Hazard Control, Anderson said.
"Dwight and I are close in age and we grew up in this business during a period where we were all learning from each other and sharing," he said. "I commend Dwight and his organization for continuing to be innovative and for openly sharing what their organization has learned in response to emergencies around the world. Although some in the business hate to admit it, the tools, equipment and concepts that Williams has developed and openly shared over the years have made us all safer and better at what we do."
However, having the right tools and equipment alone are not enough. Today, emergency responders, leaders and management must be able to validate his or her knowledge, skills and qualifications to safely and effectively respond to and manage the scene of an industrial emergency. Where did you get your training? What was the program? Was the program performance based (knowledge and skills)? Who taught it? What were the credentials of the instructor?
"These issues over the years have become ever more important," Anderson said. "A lot of organizations have not embraced this new direction. Many don’t see it from the legal, liability standpoint required to protect themselves and the Company. Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society. To be able to go into court and validate that a company is doing the right things is going to become more and more important."
Anderson, now 64, said he continues to learn and plans to keep providing training and consulting services for industrial organizations throughout the world for a long time to come.
"I’m often asked ‘How long are you going to keep doing this?’" he said. "As long as I’m healthy and feel I am making a difference, I will continue to serve our industrial customers. I offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to all of those that have shared in this journey."