Industrial emergency team leaders today face myriad problems only slightly less daunting than dealing with an actual emergency. Does the plant’s emergency pre-plan merely comply with the required regulations or is it a well maintained tool that is ready for any potential emergency incident?
How long has it been since the plant conducted an adequate fire and safety audit? Are the plant fire inspectors certified pursuant to NFPA standards? After a major emergency, who would conduct a detailed investigation to determine the cause and whether the ERT acted properly?
And, most important, who determines the training that new and experienced ERT personnel need to meet all relevant standards and regulations, and who conducts that training?
Texas-based Fire & Safety Specialists has spent the last 30 years answering these questions and many more for industrial fire personnel worldwide. Currently, FSS has contracts with companies in the U.S., Canada, Azerbaijan, Turkey, South Africa, Kuwait and Libya.
At last count, company founder David White has visited more than 50 countries doing work that prepares firefighters to safely protect their fellow personnel and themselves.
“Tell us what you need and what objective you want to achieve,” White said. “Don’t just tell us you want to go to a fire school and squirt foam on the fire. What kind of products does your facility handle? Are those products shipped by tank trucks, railroad, pipeline or all of the above?”
To determine the necessary training, FSS performs a detailed assessment of the plant and the ERT.
“We don’t come in with a canned program,” White said. “What makes us unique is we can tailor a program to the client’s products – hydrazine, hydrochloric acid, methanol or all three at once – and the special problems involved.”
Key areas of industrial emergency response in which FSS specializes include the following:
Fire Inspector I and II is a certification process pursuant to NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner. Among the goals is to ensure proficiency in the use of codes and standards and guarantee a fair, uniform certification process.
“We prepare people who go out and inspect everything from process facilities to warehouses to office space,” White said. “They check everything from the number of fire extinguishers to whether the intrinsically safe pumps are wired properly.”
An outgrowth of the inspector program is a program to train fire inspectors and others, including supervisory personnel, on the NFPA 704 marking system to label tanks, vessels, pipelines and other plant components containing hazardous materials. At one facility, FSS is helping in the development of a data base that will use that information to quickly access all potential hazards within the vicinity of any evolving emergency.
An international FSS client wanted to upgrade their internal response capability with regard to emergency medical services.
“The plant did not think they had a very good system,” White said. “What we did was initially conduct an assessment of where the 50 or so responders stood individually and collectively compared to U.S. style first responders. Once we determined their capability, we then custom designed a training program that will elevate the first responders to a true EMT level over two years.”
Industrial facilities vary a great deal on this issue, he said. Some will have a doctor and a fully equipped clinic on hand. Others depend more on EMTs or paramedics.
“The idea is that we listen to what the client is looking for and then find that extra piece of knowledge needed to deliver the unique type of training not available in most places,” White said. “The client doesn’t have to spend a lot of time hunting down these sources and checking them out.”
One important element of the EMS program is the ability FSS has to deliver training by means of computer.
“Basically, on the computer programming for EMS, we are able to deliver training for personnel in a plant anywhere in the world using computer based learning,” White said. “From our assessment we are able to develop a unique, customized program for your plant,” White said. “Your plant will then be able to train people to the level desired.”
MARINE FIRE FIGHTING
FSS offers customized training in marine fire fighting to meet either NFPA or ProBoard standards. The training is conducted at a fire training facility in the U.S.
“What we do is take fire officers from departments around the world and train those people to handle marine fire fighting, everything from tankers to hazardous materials, anything that would go into or out of a marine port anywhere,” White said.
As with other FSS programs, the marine fire fighting training can be specifically tailored to match the facility the firefighters protect.
“The problem with ProBoard and IFSAC is that you can’t deviate much from what they require,” White said. “A great example of this is in the Middle East. There is no such thing as a railcar in Kuwait, but you’ve got to teach 20 hours of railcar hazmat training.”
Training to obtain these certifications can also be expensive. FSS can customize a training program for a specific facility that meets NFPA standards in its entirety at a greatly reduced price.
FIREFIGHTER I & II
FSS delivers ProBoard certified training, but specializes in modifying the programs to cover topics specific to the industrial facility in question that may not be addressed in the NFPA standard, White said.
Aside from full-time firefighters, the program is also used to train administrative personnel who serve in oversight positions within the plant’s safety division.
“So we are training the supervisory personnel who might not actually be doing the inspections but are responsible for budgeting and making sure the correct NFPA standard was applied properly,” White said.
Generally, all firefighter training follows the guidelines established by the NFPA and IFSTA (International Fire Service Training Association. Any ERT is a constantly changing group with some people very experienced and others just getting started, White said.
“You have limited staff to do the training,” White said. “This is a way for you to pick out what core topics you most need training for.”
Phase 1 of the training program is divided into two modules. The first module involves visiting the plant during an actual shift to determine the actual physical skills required by personnel.
“We check their knowledge on using hoses, ladders and other tools that could be demonstrated without the benefit of a fire,” White said. “But to assess their teamwork skills as well as their individual skills in live fire fighting requires a trip to a fire school.”
Seasoned instructors set up scenarios, then conduct a formal assessment to determine if the firefighters meet ProBoard and IFSAC criteria. After identifying any gaps in the firefighter’s training, instructors initiate Phase II including time in the classroom and the live fire training grounds.
“Because we sent our people into the plant, working during shift to do the assessment, the result was much less time spent on the fire training grounds,” White said.
“At the end of the day they obtained the same certification but with much less time spent waiting in an airport outside the plant.”
Figuring out what the client wants and the best way to achieve it is the secret to FSS’s success, White said.
“We figure out who the best instructors are for the training needed, what the best instructional models are and then, in the case of most foreign clients, we base the training on their schedule to cause the least disruption in production,” White said.
One FSS client had multiple facilities around the country, he said. FSS was able to meet their required timeline, administering confined space, rope rescue and haz mat training for 200 people in only nine weeks.
When FSS originally came into being, very little fire training was conducted in plants and refineries, said Lynn White, David’s wife and business partner.
“People would come to the annual fire schools, but there wasn’t that much contract training going on,” she said. “David got a lot of ‘yes but …’ answers when he made his recommendations about training. By using simulated incidents that could occur in their plant, they experienced their training needs.”
Today, the slate of services that FSS offers continues to expand, said Lynn White.
“We can put our confidence behind our clients. We partner with experts who can work best with us to meet the client’s needs. That is what has made FSS a unique and valued emergency response planning and training resource that isn’t available in most places.”