Article Archive
Software provides hard facts
Vol. 26 Summer

A thousand questions demand immediate answers in an industrial emergency. How long does it take for a storage tank filled with a particular hydrocarbon to burn itself out? If you have 3,000 feet of large diameter hose and know the pressure of a particular hydrant, will you still need a booster pump? If five storage tanks share a common dike and one tank fails, is the available containment enough to hold the contents?

Ross Coulman, operations director for UK-based CPD, says his company has the tool to provide the multitude of necessary answers quickly and accurately. iResponse Emergency Manager is a computer software system designed to improve pre-planning, training and actual response.

"It allows you to figure out what your problem is and then allows you to look at the results as you deploy them," Coulman said. "It’s a decision making tool."

By providing a map view of the relative locations of resources and existing infrastructure at an industrial facility, iResponse enables the user to visualize an incident and design how they would respond.

Smart tools that calculate thermal radiation, atmospheric dispersion, overpressure, foam requirements, dike volume and hose runs help determine the incident’s impact and the resources required to bring it under control.

The software calculates the answers to a myriad of questions relevant in an emergency situation, Coulman said.

"If you tell it how much water you’re pouring into a runoff area, it tells you how long before it overflows," he said. "It allows you to position your monitors and tell if they are close enough to do any good."

Coulman speaks from actual experience. Before moving into the software business, he spent 10 years with companies such as ITI, Enron and Sembcorp.

"I have experience being on the other side of the fence," Coulman said.

Using iResponse, the responder first loads a map of the industrial facility involved. Next, the responder sets the overall weather conditions that affect the output results of the computer model.

"From here, the user can take themselves to the area of their facility involved in the emergency and start to develop their scenario which can then be stored as a pre-plan or developed further to form a response plan," a CPD press release states.

By interacting with the map on the screen, the user can model multiple fires, explosions or atmospheric dispersions for storage tanks, pipelines, spills and contained areas. Any model can be instantly modified, enabling comparisons to be drawn on the same facility feature (e.g. storage tank) by changing a parameter such as wind speed or direction.

Using a simple user interface, iResponse allows responders to model thermal radiation, overpressure events such as explosions and atmospheric disperson of gases or liquids utilizing site drawings or satellite imagery.

"You can be trained to enter the information in just a couple of hours," Coulman said. "Once trained, you can create a scenario in five to 10 minutes using a modern computer interface. Most of our competitors are still using older technology that is a bit more labor intensive to use."

Once one or more scenario models have been defined, the responder can add further information to help evaluate the impact of the emergency. Available devices allow the firefighter to:

- Measure the proximity of other facility assets to the source of the emergency with a ruler tool.

- Measure the capacity and time to overflow of contained areas such as dikes.

- Place NFPA standard icons to represent the location of key personnel and response equipment such as hydrants.

- Annotate the site drawing with text and shapes to highlight areas of concern.

- Measure the impact on people and property beyond the facility perimeter using satellite imagery.


"Populating" the software program with the relevant data for an entire industrial complex can be a big job, Coulman said. Rather than tackle it all at once, Coulman said he recommends adding one industrial asset at a time over an extended period.

"The way we envision people using it is take an asset such as a crude storage tank, detail how you would treat it and move on to the next asset, he said. "You are not going to populate it overnight."

As a training tool, iResponse can substantially reduce the amount of time it takes for recruits to familiarize themselves with a new facility.

"If you’re a new responder it can take a year or two before you know where everything is," Coulman said. "iResponse allows them to learn about the facility at the comfort of a desk when there is any down time."

The user can take the scenario pre-plan further to become a response plan, using decision support tools such as:

• Run a Hose: Enables the user to determine the most suitable routes to lay hose runs across a facility, maintaining a running total of the length of hose required and calculating the number of booster pumps required for each hose length.

• Foam Calculators: Responders can calculate the total volume of foam required for four application types – rim seal, dike, mobile and fixed equipment.

• Place Monitor: Display on the map the range of any fire monitor and maintain a running total of the water being applied to the fire ground.

• Burn Down Calculator: Depending on the location, product type and volume, it may make more economical sense to permit a fire to self-extinguish.

• Layer Control: The responder can customize what they display on the map to prevent information overload by using a layer control panel.

Beside assisting with training and emergency pre-planning, iResponse is intended as a real time response tool. Via a wireless Internet connection, multiple users stationed in incident control rooms, emergency control centers, fire engines and command vehicles can be tied together in support of decision making.

"It works from a desktop PC at the emergency control center where the decision makers are," Coulman said. "At the same time, the fire chief can have it on a ruggedized laptop at the front line. You might have a company director responsible from multiple location logged on from still another location to monitor the situation."

If the Internet connection is lost for some reason, the software continues to run on each individual computer based on the last information shared, he said.

To date, CPD’s biggest sale for iResponse has been to The Oiltanking Group, which operates 71 storage terminals with a total capacity of more than 17.6 million cubic meters in 22 countries.

"iResponse helped them standardize their emergency planning procedures at each terminal," Coulman said. "They gave us the data for each site and it was ready to rock and roll the day we deployed it."


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F: (979) 690-7562

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