In September 2007, following an inspection audit, JOIFF accreditation was approved for the Brayton Fire Training Field of Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). TEEX is a member of the Texas A&M University System and offers a wide range of technical and skills training programs aimed at helping people to provide safe communities through training, technical assistance, and emergency response. Their Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, Texas, is recognised as the largest fuelled live-fire training facility and the most comprehensive emergency response training complex in the world. More detains are available in the September issue of The Catalyst, available at www.joiff.com
In November 2007 following an inspection audit, the Sasol Secunda Shared Services Emergency Management Training Academy (EMTA), South Africa was awarded a JOIFF certificate of accreditation. Since the early 1980s, the EMTA has developed from modest beginnings to become one of the most advanced industrial training centres in Africa. The primary objective of the EMTA is to develop and maintain the competence of Emergency Management and onsite personnel in Secunda. As Sasol is a global company with branches throughout South Africa, the EMTA also trains Sasol personnel from their other sites. The EMTA also provides training to the municipal fire departments throughout the Mpumalanga province in which Sasol Secunda is located.
The EMTA is accredited by the South African Emergency Services Institute (SAESI) / International Fire Services Accreditation Council (IFSAC) to present a range of courses. The EMTA and JOIFF have begun to investigate with SAESI, the possibility of aligning some of the JOIFF courses and programmes with the South African Qualifications Authority Standards.
A very constructive meeting was held recently between representatives of JOIFF and Mr. Dmitry Choudnovsky, Head of Astrakhan Well Control & Response Unit, Gazobezopasnost LLC, accompanied by Mr. Vitaly Baranov, Senior Instructor at the Unit with a view to JOIFF accredited Training taking place in their Training Centre located near Caspian Sea in the city of Astrakhan, Russia. Gazobezopasnost LLC is an incorporated JSC Gazprom division and is Russia’s largest well control and blowout elimination service provider and has also become the leading training organisation in Russia for on-shore and off-shore personnel.
Gazobezopasnost provides complex Blowout Prevention and H2S Safety solutions for drilling, workover and production facilities of gas industry Operators and is the industry’s leader in providing HSE, Industrial Safety and Fire Safety services for production and processing companies. Gazobezopasnost has 35-years’ experience of gas kick and blowout elimination (including burning H2S blowouts) on-shore and off-shore, on the territory of the USSR, Afghanistan, Poland and to date has eliminated are over 120 blowouts on-shore and off-shore.
JOIFF annual general meeting.
The 2007 JOIFF Annual General Meeting took place in November 2007 in Durban, South Africa, hosted by the South African Petrochemical Fire Chiefs Committee (SAPFCC).
At the AGM, it was agreed that JOIFF will award Scholarships following submission of a proposal to a judging Committee to be established and chaired by the JOIFF Treasurer. Applications will be invited from persons all over the World who in their submission, will propose the subject matter of their scholarship. Prior to awarding any scholarship there will be an agreement between the recipients of the scholarship and JOIFF that the work will belong to JOIFF. Detail will be advertised in 2008 and first payment will be in year commencing Jan 2009.
The AGM elected a new Chairman for JOIFF, Rick Lanigan. Rick started his career in the Municipal Fire Service in Scotland in 1975 and gained a wealth of experience covering the petrochemical complexes in the Region. He transferred to Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service where the Brigade covered the Shipbuilding Industry at Barrow employing more than 16,000 persons primarily building submarines. On promotion to Divisional Commander he moved to West Cumbria where the main risks were Sellafield Nuclear reprocessing Complex with a workforce of 15,000, a number of chemical complexes and the dock areas of Workington and Whitehaven. When he retired from Cumbria Fire Service in January 2002 he took up his present role of Chief Fire Officer for British Nuclear Fuels Limited now Sellafield Sites Limited. JOIFF looks forward to further dynamic growth and development under Rick’s leadership.
Throughout the two days, as well as the business of the AGM, a number of technical papers were presented and delegates visited various petrochemical facilities.
JOIFF invites membership
Membership of JOIFF is open to any Organisation with nominated personnel as occupational firefighters/emergency responders/hazard management team members who provide cover to industrial/commercial organisations. Organisations who do not fully comply with these requirements are welcome to apply for Corporate Membership of JOIFF.
Membership of JOIFF offers a forum for discussion and shared learning through its email network to work to ensure that members benefit from the misfortunes of some to educate against the same mistakes not being repeated.
Advanced Firefighting Technology (AFT) recently launched the MPM, a motor propelled modular firefighting system that can operate with water mist or foam. Claus Casimir, Chief Operating Officer for AFT, talks to Ann-Marie Knegt.
Wallop Defence Systems, owned by Esterline Aerospace and Defence, is a producer of traditional point source Magnesium Teflon Viton (MTV) Flares (anti-missile) for the UK Ministry of Defence and other defence ministries around the globe. To meet an increased demand it decided to build a new manufacturing facility. However, choosing the best suitable protection for this new building, in which the highly volatile flares would be produced, presented a challenge.
Anti-missile flares are handmade blocks containing large quantities of magnesium designed to burn rapidly without oxygen and are designed to generate a high heat output.
At first, Wallop Defence Systems considered Inergen as a choice of fire protection to replace the CO2 systems that were used traditionally. CO2 didn’t cut it for this high-risk application because the extinguishing capabilities of these type of systems are limited as well as unsafe for humans.
Wallop Defence Systems consulted Tyco Fire and Integrated Solutions about the most suitable application for its specific risks. Bob Whitely, Engineering and Standards Manager, was put on the case. He advised against the use of Inergen because anti-missile flares do not need oxygen to burn and Inergen works by reducing oxygen in an enclosed space. He decided to carry out trials with an ultra-high speed deluge system, called Pilotex, which is was developed for all types of [n1]rapid combustion applications, including those in oil, gas and chemical industries.
“Pilotex is suitable for high-risk applications such as in the munitions and explosive industries. Systems such as Pilotex are usually installed at points in the production chain where there is an ignition risk to the fuel or where there is a potential of rapid fire spread,” Bob explains.
It works as follows; high velocity projectors, which are mounted in a shuttle valve, are held closed by the sheer pressure of the water. Adjacent to each valve is a high-speed, solenoid-operated, water dump valve connected to a special high capacitance panel – a device designed to provide the quickest response time from fire detection to water discharge. Solenoids are electrically operated valves and are installed very close to each valve on the pilot line. A small (approx. 0.5 HP) pump increases the standing pressure to 170 psi (11,7 bar) to boost the velocity of the initial water discharge.
Bob continues, “The valves are kept closed by differential pressure. In situations where the water pressure has been taken off the pilot line, the decreased water pressure drives the piston upwards and the valve is opened. When pressure is restored the piston is driven back down and the valve is resealed.”
In flare production installation each workstation is monitored by ultra sensitive UV flame detectors, which send off an alarm as soon as they pick-up the tiniest spark of UV radiation. The detectors have 90° cone of vision and are carefully positioned to view only the hazard/work station. These areas do not have extraneous UV light sources. In less than 100 milliseconds, the system delivers the water onto the source of combustion and extinguishes the flare.
As all workstations are independently protected it means that when one valve releases water the remaining inactivated valves in the system will still work by simply re-setting the control panel.
The tests were carried out at the Wallop facilities in a quality control test shed. The team assembled a specially formulated rig, comprising a wooden frame supporting two Pilotex nozzle/valve arrangements. A flame detector was integrated with the test system as well as a 200-litre pressure water tank. The test started off with the smallest flare set on a metal carrier and in order to test system viability it was fitted with an electronic igniter. When this flare was successfully extinguished, the tests continued with a 117 and a 217-sized flare placed side by side. The results were surprising; the 217 was burnt partly, the 117 however – although ignited – did not burn at all.
In order to probe operator safety, a mannequin hand fitted with a latex glove was placed next to every test flare and in all tests the rubber glove on the mannequin hand was unharmed.
The test were very successful, however it was felt that the two nozzle array would not be sufficient for the larger flares so a second set of tests was carried out – but with four nozzles protecting the test platform. The array was again supplied by a 200-litre pressure vessel but with a fire pump for ongoing system operation.
A HS4-type flare was burnt and fully suppressed although this time with only a residual amount of flare material left. The testing continued with the very large 55mm flare with similarly spectacular suppression results, without any damage at all.
The final trial entailed burning a HS4-type flare without activation of Pilotex, which resulted in a huge fireball engulfing the test area.
Wallop Defence Systems was extremely satisfied with the results and will look to Pilotex going forward.
St Pancras International will ultimately be used by over 45 million travellers every year, cutting the Eurostar journey time from London to Paris to two-and-a-quarter hours.
The station is one of the largest transport hubs in Europe, with 13 platforms, six of which are devoted to international Eurostar services. There are also 57 retail outlets and designer boutiques, plus Eurostar arrivals and departure lounges.
System design, product selection, installation, testing and commissioning of the new and extensive fire safety solution was undertaken by the Infrastructure and Rail Services division of EMCOR.
In total, 5,000 Hochiki ESP (Enhanced System Protocol) analogue addressable devices have been installed throughout the entire site on 14 Kentec Electronics’ Syncro control panels and repeaters. A variety of Hochiki devices were selected, including optical smoke sensors for back office and main passenger concourse areas; multi-sensors for more challenging environments such as plant rooms and workshops; heat detectors in kitchens and toilets; audio visual devices and base sounder beacons.
The devices are all automatically re-calibrated every 24 hours by the Syncro panels to compensate for any environmental contamination and to ensure that they continue to operate reliably at the specified sensitivity. The Kentec panels are fully compatible with all Hochiki’s ESP protocol devices, and are configured to share system information and event details on a highly fault-tolerant secure network. In the event of a confirmed fire, the Syncro system directly controls and monitors the station’s voice evacuation system, which is audible in all of the station’s public areas.
Two other key features further minimise any risk of false alarms, data integrity and error detection. Hochiki’s ESP protocol uses a combination of sophisticated algorithms that reduce data corruption. Additionally, with parity and checksum error detection principles applied to every set of data, unwanted external “noise”, such as EMC interference is eliminated.
Hochiki optical smoke sensors are designed for efficient detection and the virtual elimination of false alarms. The sensors’ chambers incorporate uniquely angled baffles that ensure that internal reflections are not misinterpreted as an alarm condition. Precise positioning of the optics in the chamber enable it to also sense a wider range of fire types, so providing a more balanced response to different types of smoke particles. This is an Hochiki-developed technology that the company calls “high-performance flat response”.
To allow the most suitable sensing mode to be adopted for a particular environment, the multi-sensors can be set to heat only, smoke only, or thermally-enhanced smoke detection mode.
The installation is managed in the station’s main control room where, around the clock, a 1.2-metre LCD screen displays the entire station and its fire detection system. This can provide an overview of the whole installation, or drill-down to show various levels of detail; if necessary pinpointing information on any specific device.
The same solutions have been adopted to protect all of Phase Two of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link that includes 29 portals, shafts and technical buildings, two main train depots, the new Ebbsfleet International Station and the new Stratford International Station.
In early 2007 Leighs Paints finished work on Tapti offshore oil platform in Lamprell Yard, Dubai, destined for deployment by British Gas India off the coast of Mumbai. The new platform, now protected with Leighs Paints Firetex M90 – is part of an expansion project for an oil field currently in operation.
The importance of proper application of epoxy coatings is well known. In a worse case scenario, improper application can necessitate the need for removal and reapplication of thousands of square meters of column, deck and bulk heads, top beam, and bracings. It is a good example of where doing a rush job due to small windows of opportunity can have disastrous consequences – particularly in high humidity conditions that can affect curing times and therefore contribute to system failure.
Why are intumescent coatings so important?
“Steel begins to lose its design strength at temperatures over 4000C and structural elements need to be protected against these elevated temperatures. In hydrocarbon fires, concrete can spall under thermal shock, revealing steel reinforcement which can then be attacked.
Large outbreaks can cause very rapid flame spread due to spillage (pool fire) or pipelines under pressure (jet fire). Even when insulating protection has been applied, damage can be caused by the stripping away of insulation due to the scouring or abrasive effect of high velocity flames. A pool fire can reach 1,100 0C, but a jet fire can go as far as 1,300 oC.
Our Firetex M90 provides protection against both pool and jet fires for up to two hours – it is also solvent-free, has low water uptake, and is corrosion-resisting.”
How do you make sure the paint is applied correctly?
“We sell our paints to specialist applicators, whom we train either in-house or at their premises. The applicators use specialist equipment – for this project two component heated machines were used. The thickness of the paint is critical, because that dictates the time of the protection offered. As part of our final sign-off inspection we either drill through the intumescent to measure the thickness or use a special electronic gauge such as an Elcometer.”
Are there any problematic issues?
“Yes. Quite often people don’t understand the specification because they are not involved with passive fire protection. In this industry, you often have a number of stakeholders, so you could have three different parties passing comment. I would advise people to ensure that the data given by the applicator is correct and verified by independent testing and assessments.
The insurance company behind a project – eg Det Norsk Veritas or Lloyds Insurers – will dictate the specification of the passive protection features. These two verification bodies have slightly different philosophies. Whereas the Under Writers Laboratories (UL) of the USA stipulates a single thickness for the whole structure, Lloyds/DNV will dictate different thicknesses of intumescent dependent upon the member size and load ratio. People should always start off with the design approval document from the insurer.”
How can people ensure they have taken the correct course?
“If you want the comfort factor, I suggest you take the intumescent design specification supplied by either the supplier or the applicator, and send it to the insurance company. Once assessed, they should send you an approval letter to say it will work. This process does not happen very often, but it should. Lloyd’s call it ‘design approval’, and I believe it should be done before a job is started.”
Was Tapti a complex project?
“Tapti was a normal project for us, although satisfying the technicalities is always a challenge. A typical problem is that the design of the structure is not finished when we begin on the specification side, which means that we have to make revisions before we get to final approval. With Tapti we got to revision number three, which meant four revisions – we start at zero. Then we gave a fire design verification and approval documentation.”
What other interesting projects have you worked on recently?
“We recently finished work on the sixth largest mosque in the world – the Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan mosque in Abu Dhabi. Covering an area of 22,000 m2, it is named after the former ruler of the UAE. The Grand Mosque, as it is usually called, was built by the Royal Family and therefore the architect wanted to use the highest specification materials for extra durability, which is why they chose Firetex M90 to protect the structure.” y
The potential of an explosion in a high-risk environment is always a massive concern for those who work in such conditions. The combustible atmosphere of flammable gases, dust, and vapours means the prospect of an explosion being set off from the smallest source is a very real possibility. ATEX (atmosphere explosive) requirements are put in place to ensure nothing in the workplace has the potential to set off an explosion. In areas such as airports or large train stations, the sheer number of people who pass through the building poses a challenge in itself. It means that good, clear, alarm signals are need – especially when the vast majority of people will have no knowledge of the building layout or what different alarm sounds may mean. Therefore sirens, alarms, sounders and control panels are a vital safety feature in any high-risk environment and mustn’t react with the atmosphere the are operating in.
As Product Manager for MEDC Glynn Warren says, “it is vital that alarms or sirens are designed to ensure that they cannot ignite the very dangers they could be warning about.”
MEDC is a UK based company which was recently incorporated into a US based company called Cooper Industries. It provides a wide range of products for hazardous and non-hazardous environments and these are used in many varied industries. “We provide alarms, speakers, beacons, call points and indicators and are able to offer them to industrial areas across the world as they all conform to, not just the relevant European standards, but also to the North American equivalents and many others internationally.”
By covering so many regulations, including ATEX, MEDC is a popular choice particularly in offshore oil platforms and refineries; “In many industrial environments alarms and sounder systems must be able to work in hazardous conditions without the risk of igniting any combustible materials in the air,” Glynn notes. The audible sounder DB3 range is very popular in this area as well as the XB15 visual indicator. There is another benefit to the range by MEDC as Glynn points out; “Our products for marine, coastal and off-shore industries are made from glass reinforced polyester (GRP) so they don’t suffer from corrosion which is a major factor for industrial environments in such conditions.” The London Underground, rail networks and airports are also serviced with audible alarms and speakers from MEDC.
As noted, many areas such as airports or train stations have the problem whereby members of the general public are not be familiar with the layout of the building or alarm sounds specific to that building. As a result, voice sounders are becoming increasingly more common in such environments. By being able to communicate the nature of the situation and provide clear and concise directions, people can find their way out of a complex building quickly and safely.
Honeywell cover both the UK and US markets with its range called Notifier and these systems are installed in many international airports and large sporting arenas such as basketball and football stadiums as well as pharmaceutical plants and other similar environments. Peter Ebersold, Marketing Director for Honeywell, comments, “Facilities such as these have the potential for major fire hazards and so the need to evacuate quickly is vital. A voice evacuation system or a mass notification alert system will generate alert tones, pre-recorded messages or live messages that direct the occupants during the emergency.” The Notifier NFS2-3030 fire alarm control panel is frequently used in stadium environments and can also be networked together to protect a facility, such as an airport with a single system. The NFS2-3030 can also be integrated with the Notifier Onyx Digital Voice Command (DVC) system that both generates and distributes digital audio messages throughout a facility.
As with most safety technologies, alarms need to conform to relevant standards. “UL 864 is the standard that all manufacturers must meet before their products can be sold in the USA but it also extends to the Middle East and parts of Asia,” Peter explains, adding, “A system must be designed and installed to meet the requirements of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code or the International Building Code, (IBC). As well as this there are often countries with their own installation codes.”
In airports and other mass transport structures the need for clear directional instructions is increased. Peter points out that in some cases alarms need to be individually tailored; “In an airport, for example, any messages played over the voice evacuation systems might need to give very specific instructions about where to exit the building, based on the occupants’ location. This requires a system with the capability to send alert tones or messages to very small areas of the airport.”
The presence of machinery in many factories and other industrial environments also brings in the prospect of high noise levels – and the likelihood many people would be using ear-defenders – so sound outputs often have to be louder than in commercial environments.
Fulleon is a company that offers products for all levels of industrial environments, addressing head-on the issue of being audible in extreme noise environments. The Asserta range has sound outputs of 110db and 120db that can be heard in extremely loud conditions. Fulleon has also expanded this range with a series of new Asserta Midi, Mini and Maxi alarms. The 110db Midi and 105db Mini were introduced to fill the need for lower output sounders while still providing very high levels of protection from harsher environments, explains Bob Choppen, Product Manager.
The Asserta range can be used for high-end industrial areas and is suitable for manufacturing environments. As Bob says, “These environments are usually extremely hostile places for equipment, with high levels of humidity, areas of wash-down and high levels of dust which can be corrosive, so the housings need to be robust and protected. Thus the Asserta range have high IP ratings, typically IP66.”
At the low-end there are Askari, Roshni and Solex Xenon beacons that cover general purpose and status indicator areas. Fulleon has also introduced a new range of traffic light style status indicators based on the Solista Maxi LED Beacon. This allows the user to select flash modes, colour options and power settings giving flexibility and reliability that ensures low running costs.
Klaxon Signals have just announced the launch of a new family of Sonos and Nexus voice sounders. The Sonos Voice Sounder is a fire alarm that combines a normal sounder with a synchronised voice message to reduce confusion during an active alarm. The Voice Enhanced sounders are available with either single or multi-message options for small-scale to large-scale installations.
Up to four messages can be transmitted on the multi-message sounders to provide information on “alert”, “evacuate” or “all clear” stages of an emergency, meaning workers or the public can be informed in detail of what needs to be done. Sara Mudalige, marketing executive, explains that a system which sends a specific message can help save time and possible lives, “Rather than having just a general sound it gives a detailed alarm as decided by the system when it detects a fire.”
The Sonos alarm can be used in industrial areas and the two variants are available with a choice of 32 tones, including all international standards.
Higher sound output
Klaxon Signals also provides a range of Nexus voice sounders for applications that require a higher sound output. A specialised variant of the Nexus voice sounder has been designed for the gas extinguishing systems market and comes with an interface controller that connects directly to the extinguishing control panel and sounder circuits, giving out the appropriate message and tone. As Sara explains there are several benefits of using a gas extinguishant system; “A system that releases a gas which reduces CO2 in the air helps stop the fire and avoids potential fire damage to telecom switch rooms or important documentation that might occur if normal sprinklers were used.”
Klaxon Signals sales director Stuart Mason notes that voice messages have been proven to improve evacuation response time through intelligible warnings, and as such the Nexus Voice Sounder is USB compatible, which means users can record and upload their own messages in WAV format, in-house, to provide highly specific warning messages.
Visual and combination warnings
In the great majority of commercial and industrial premises, the building’s fire system is the most likely method of warning about a potential threat to the occupants. The typical audible visual warning generated by the system alerts the occupants to the fact that there is an emergency, but doesn’t provide any help or guidance to show people the optimum escape route.
To address this important issue, KAC has introduced ExitPoint, a directional sound technology which, triggered by the fire system, instinctively attracts people towards its source in both good and poor visibility. Mark Thompson, business development manager, explains. “The units generate sound pulses of low, medium and high broadband noise that make it possible for people to identify accurately the location of the source. Directional sound is recognised by a primitive part of the human brain and because of this people are instinctively drawn to the noise. They can therefore be aurally directed to the nearest emergency exit, reducing evacuation times by up to 75 per cent in tests.”
ExitPoint operates at 24VDC, and has five user-selectable power settings so that it can be optimised to its installed environment. It is also available with an optional voice messaging capability that will reinforce the meaning of the tones to people, advising them that following the tones they are being led to the nearest emergency exit, further improving the effectiveness of the units in reducing evacuation times. Different tone combinations are also programmed into the unit that people instinctively recognise and follow. These combinations are designed to instruct occupants that they are nearing an exit, a stairway up or a stairway down.
The amount of industries that need to be covered means there are requirements for alarms for all types of environments. Cranford Controls provide a range of specific alarms – including an array of spatial sounders, room sounders and beacons – for different industrial areas. Charlotte Philo, marketing assistant, explains more, “Our alarms are discrete and compact and have loud sound output while only requiring low current consumptions. The sounder range can be used in various facilities including factories, hotels and many other hazardous areas.”
Charlotte explains some of the factors that must be considered when selecting alarms; “An effective sounder should have clear audibility and needs to be louder than the surrounding background noise. You should also consider any special requirements the sounder might need. For instance, do they need to be weatherproof, intrinsically safe or explosion proof?” Cranford Controls supply several Intrinsically Safe sounders that have ATEX approval while the VPR-DT and VSO manufactured sounders have LPCB approval and all products comply with the RoSHH and WEEE directives too. They will also be launching a new VSO combined platform sounder in the New Year which has a specifically designed lens to provide 360° light output.
In many environments a combination of beacon and sounder is the most suitable solution. Apollo Fire offers both these products, compliant with EN54 standards, and Rowland Davies, marketing services manager, explains why the two work so well together; “In many areas you often have people working against high background noise who might not hear a siren. But if there is a beacon as well they can see there is an emergency. It’s only relatively recently people have realised the potential, and importance, of the two together.”
Adjustable sound levels
There is also the fact that sirens need to operate at varying levels of noise – some higher than standard, some less so. Apollo Fire has recently launched a new Discovery Sounder Beacon Base that has adjustable sound levels.
The best thing about this system though, as Rowland notes, is that it can be tested and adjusted by just one person using a special “magnetic wand” that, when held close to the sounder, adjusts the sound levels to the desired volume. “It’s quite a sophisticated system and allows different areas of an environment to be covered with different sound levels.”
Abel Alarms provides fire protection solutions for many areas including industrial sites and national users with multiple outlets. Chris Norton, sales manager, explains the benefits of specific alarms, “In large public areas voice alarms in several languages can be necessary when you might have international travellers, while for people with impaired hearing visual fire warnings are required.
“The alarm systems are accredited to BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) Scheme SP203 by NSI (The National Security Inspectorate), in support of Government guidelines on fire protection issued for specific business areas and the British Standard 5839 provides positive recommendations.”
Guarding against unwanted alarms, sometimes caused by steam or burning toast, means choosing the correct fire detector to suit the environment is essential. As Chris points out; “Some applications demand a high degree of aesthetic consideration, so wire-free components operating on radio frequency may be the preferred choice, while in high value applications a system directly linked to fixed extinguishing installations to combat the fire would be preferable.”
As new buildings like King’s Cross St. Pancras International demonstrate, large scale buildings will always place high emphasis on design and aesthetics. But behind the scenes there are a range of companies able to provide safety solutions to a range of hazards.
With ATEX requirements in place to prevent the potential risk of explosions, manufacturers are able to ensure that their products can be used in some of the most hazardous areas to provide protection against the many dangers that exist in extreme industrial environments.
On a cold autumn day politicians, firefighters, press and VIPs congregated at Cardiff International airport to witness the opening of a new £750,000 ($1.5m) aircraft fire simulation system – the first such system to be installed by Draeger in the UK.
Everyone was keen to see the unique new rig in action, if anything because the burning LPG would at least drive some warmth into cold bones.
And unique is the word for the rig, constructed as it is entirely to the specifications of Cardiff airport. The 30 metre long rig comprises two sections replicating a Boeing 767 and a Dash 8 aircraft, as Senior Airport Fire Officer Ray Imperato explains, “This new training rig will give us the most up-to-date facility in the UK… it offers 17 different computer-simulated firefighting scenarios, from cockpit fires to fires starting in the galley, toilet, landing gear, seats, fuselage and engines.” It also incorporates an external fuel spill fire area, and it is predicted that the rig will also be open for training by industrial firefighters.
The facility’s computer control and monitoring system will enable multiple training scenarios – all with safety features built in. An automatic monitoring system includes gas detection sensors, temperature sensors and a remote support service via data interface.
In addition to automatic shutdown in the event of a gas leak or excessive heat generation, the system includes several emergency stop buttons that automatically shut down the simulation and start ventilation to remove smoke.
The Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy and Transport of Wales, Ieuan Wyn Jones, emphasised the green credentials of the new facility. “The rig has the environmental advantage that it does not burn kerosene, but burns liquid petroleum gas. This will also help reduce the airport’s carbon footprint.”
It is envisaged the facility will be used approximately four times per week by the airport’s firefighters, who work in four daily shifts of 13 people, providing a 24/7 service. Following remodeling, the old rig will be used for extreme crash scenarios.
Vice President of Draeger Safety Solutions, Rainer Kröger, commented on what makes a good training rig. “A training device should be realistic, reliable and safe. These three are very important headlines. That a firefighter be hurt during training cannot be allowed. Realistic means that, for example in this case, you have a smoke generator and the capability to have 10 fires outside and seven inside. Here is a fantastic opportunity to create hazards that could happen in real life.” Rainer also highlighted the rig’s environmental features, such as its water recycling system (all water is reused), and the fact that the gas used does not smoke.
VSTEP, based in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), specialises in simulation software for emergency services, industrial emergency response and maritime applications. The company was set up five years ago. “We develop serious training programmes based on video gaming technology,” explains co-owner and founder Cristijn Sarvaas.
Cristijn explains that computer-based training is currently very popular, especially in Europe. “Computer-based VR training is most useful for situations that are hard to simulate in real life or for scenarios that are just too expensive to simulate as a hands-on scenario.” High-risk industries and emergency services encounter many situations in which these factors are applicable, he continues.
VSTEP developed a virtual training platform, RescueSim, with training products for the petrochemical industry, municipal emergency response and the maritime industry. The company started several years ago with the development of fire training scenario software on-board ship. “This course was not focused on the physical act of extinguishment, but on taking the right strategic decisions executed by either the fire team leader or the duty officer from a control room. For a number of ship operators we developed the Advanced Firefighting Course software, in co-operation with the Falck Nutec maritime training center, and it was approved by IMO several years ago,” explains Cristijn.
Dealing with regulation
Industrial incident management is VSTEP’s third product on the RescueSim platform. It was developed in co-operation with the Industrial & Harbour Fire Department Rotterdam – a public-private organisation in which 75 per cent of the costs are carried by the 50 largest petrochemical and chemical companies in the Port of Rotterdam and the other 25 per cent by Rotterdam Council – and Shell. Industrial & Harbour Fire Department had trouble getting the right training experiences because it was hard to create a realistic fire or explosion scenario at an industrial facility. Real fires are not allowed for by regulation.
Together they developed a simulation programme which can be used for incident management training by the whole petrochemical industry.
Three-dimensional software model
So how does VSTEP build one of these virtual industrial facilities?
In the process of building realistic virtual surroundings (for an oil refinery for example), the company uses the facility’s plans as a basis on which to build a three-dimensional software model. Usually this kind of work is sub-contracted because it is so time and labour insensitive. A basic model of a petrochemical facility has already been developed, which can be specifically adapted or even fully customised to the client’s wishes. The costs of this are shared with the Industrial & Harbour Fire Department and Shell.
Cristijn is currently building extra functionality for another chemical company that wants to train staff for incidents with liquid chlorine. The functionality will be built into the engine as a whole and other users will be able to access that.
“It means that our clients do not have to spend tonnes of cash on a single simulation programme. Because we have already designed the basic functionality, we only have to adapt it to specific a client’s requirements. The software is available on a subscription model from 22,000 euros a year, this includes a computer and regular update of new scenarios. For a small extra charge your own facility can be modelled in 3D,” he summarises.
The largest benefit of using video gaming technology is that it is visually very strong, he explains, “The student really ‘experiences’ the situation on screen. Secondly, it is interactive; the student is constantly occupied as well as being responsible for his own decisions. Lastly, it is a cost effective way of training and it is much cheaper than traditional simulation technology.”
So how does the training work?
VSTEP designed a toolbox that allows the instructor to create an unlimited range of scenarios and incidents via a drag and drop function. Every possible emergency scenario can be simulated, ranging from the behaviour of the weather and movements of fire, smoke and gas to other possible influences that shape an incident.
The response has been extremely positive, says Cristijn. “The fire service had to change its way of training, because firefighters were used to hands-on training, which required a certain measure of guidance, but this caused no problems whatsoever.
“The software can be used by operational staff on the ground as well as commanders. We developed procedural training for operational staff and scenario training for a higher level of command in which leadership, communication and assessment qualities are practised.”
Some users train in a classroom, in which an instructor has an overview of how every individual student is performing. Others carry out the training individually.
As with the contents of the software, the set-up can be organised to the client’s individual requirements.
Because the simulation system is based on video gaming technology and the realism is very high, students tend to enjoy the training much more. When the students were asked to train for incident response on-board of a ship, they became so familiar with their surroundings, that when they actually set foot on-board they knew their way around.
The PSS 7000 BA is Draeger’s latest development in advanced technology and modular design, allowing quick configuration for different operational requirements and seamless integration with facemasks, head protection and communications equipment.
MSA is set to revolutionise the SCBA buying process with two innovations - a new modular industrial SCBA system, and the Configurator, an interactive online or CD-ROM tool that does the legwork for you.
With air traffic increasing, protection of flight domes and aircraft needs to be enhanced. Ann-Marie Knegt checks out the latest demands and developments in crash tenders.
The technology used in today’s high vis vests is well established, but what happens when you need your high vis PPE to light that extra mile? What happens when even high vis vests just aren’t high vis enough?
It would seem that the road to a green hydrogen economy is well on the way to being built. In 2006 the US Federal government spent nearly $500m on hydrogen and fuel cell R&D, with activities being co-ordinated through the Interagency Working Group on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (see www.hydrogen.gov). President Bush had committed $1.2 billion on hydrogen fuel initiatives over five years (2004-08), and now there is to be, for 2008, an increase in funding of $35m for the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, and $19.5 million for Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies.
In Europe, six months ago the European Parliament adopted a written declaration calling – amongst others – for EU institutions to:
- produce 33 per cent of electricity and 25 per cent of overall energy from renewable energy sources by 2020;
- institute hydrogen fuel cell storage technology, and other storage technologies, for portable, stationary and transport uses and establish a decentralised bottom-up hydrogen infrastructure by 2025 in all EU member states.
Yes, it seems it is full steam ahead for the new hydrogen world, but what is being done in terms of risk management and incident response?
Thomas Jordan is the co-ordinator of Hysafe (www.hysafe.net), a European Commission co-funded Network of Excellence consisting of 150 scientists in 25 institutions in Europe, Russia and Canada, all working on topics related to hydrogen safety – including risk management, regulation certifications and standards.
Most of Thomas’ work is involved with hydrogen’s future replacement of fossil fuels as the main fuel in transport. The major risk is explosion, as one would expect, although there are secondary thermal risks by fire blaze and radiant heat to the environment. The risks associated with malicious usage for attack purposes are also being looked at.
“One important issue is hydrogen sensing, which is quite difficult because you cannot smell it or see it. This is a gas that is likely to be released without anyone realising it. Odourising hydrogen like conventional hydrocarbons is a questionable approach because of the incompatibilities with the usage in fuel cells.”
It is hydrogen’s highly diffusive properties that make it difficult to detect, “but its diffusive properties help to dilute it in air, so what is hazardous about it is also positive.” Risk management therefore should include avoiding potential confinement and obstructions at the point of release of hydrogen.
For more detailed information of emergency response, Thomas recommends the organisation’s “e-academy”. “We have the world’s first and only academic curriculum on hydrogen safety. This sound scientific basis feeds the short courses we offer for first responders, where we are on the way to translating the material into other European languages. We also run safety workshops directly or indirectly related to standardisation and regulation issues.”
A summer school was launched in 2006, and there is a biennial event, the International Conference on Hydrogen Safety, next to be held in 2009. “We do have fire brigades attending, but mainly from the USA. We want to increase participation from first response in Europe. Much of the first response attendance is municipal, as municipal agencies and firefighting brigades have to be involved in the certification process of fuel cells – otherwise they don’t have the hazmat knowledge to deal with incidents.”
In the UK the Health and Safety Laboratory opened a high-pressure hydrogen testing system in October in response to the challenges presented by the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel.
Although hydrogen has been used safely as an industrial gas by the aerospace and chemical industries for many years, its use as a vehicle fuel presents some different problems. HSL’s new facility is unique in that it can test hydrogen systems up to pressures of 1,000bar, and can be used to investigate high-pressure applications from refuelling and bulk storage to components and materials testing.
Dr Stuart Hawksworth, HSL Head of Explosion Safety, told IFJ about the work being carried out at HSL. “Automotive manufacturers have obviously done development work in relation to vehicles, but our current work is more interested in seeing how hydrogen behaves in critical situations such as might occur during an accidental release during vehicle refuelling.”
Projects so far include looking at ignition, fire and explosion hazards associated with accidental releases of hydrogen in situations such as storage and dispensing facilities; and work with Imperial college looking at the spontaneous ignition associated with high-pressure failures.
“One area of concern is where to site high pressure containers of 700bar. We are involved with the HySafe Network of Excellence, and we feed back to industry and emergency services. Another issue that emergency responders need to be aware of, in addition to the hazards associated with hydrogen, is voltages of potentially up to 100V associated with the vehicle fuel cell, and first responders will need training to deal with this.”
The oil, gas, chemical, power and other high risk industries have been waiting for proof that such a foam is up to the challenge for both hydrocarbon and polar solvent fuels.
Manufactured by Bio-Ex, Ecopol has matched the performance of foams such as AFFF, FFP and the highest performing fluoroprotein foam in this catergoy.
The Lastfire test evaluation is based on a points system, with the highest proportion of points being structured around fire extinction, and points awarded for initial fire control, flash over and burn back. Foam achieving between 80 and 100 points is classified as “good” foam (the highest assessment band). Ecopol has joined a number of elite foams that have achieved the top mark of 100 points.
Gary McDowall of ABC Macintosh, UK distributor for Bio-Ex, spoke to IFJ about the significance of the latest results, and why the company has waited so long to make its FfreeF move.
“When Lastfire first started testing in 2002 both Thierry (MD of Bio-Ex) and I did not believe the industry in general had the right mindset for the fluorofree options with foams. It was still a relatively new innovation and all foam manufacturers were rushing to prove how good their film forming foams – containing fluorosurfactants – would perform in the Lastfire test.”
At the time, the accepted view of FFF manufacturers was that the new types of foams would not perform well on hydrocarbon fuels such as heptane, remembers Gary. “We always felt differently and were confident that Ecopol would do well on hydrocarbon fire tests.”
Incidentally, IFJ was a witness to this in Bio-Ex tests in Vigo, northwest Spain (see June 2007 issue), where 16 litres of foam extinguished a 111 square metre fire. (A further trip is planned for next year and interested parties should get in touch with Gary McDowall.)
Buncefield issues with contaminated groundwater, admits Gary, have had a great influence on the industry’s change of mind. “Now at last we had the ear of the industry decision makers. Government and political parties generally were at the same time also lifting the profile of the environment to a much higher level, so the time was right to lift Ecopol’s profile.”
For the Lastfire testing, Gary and Thierry expected a reasonable outcome – a classification of ‘acceptable’ (70 per cent) on the hydrocarbon test. As it turned out, Ecopol scored 100 points on the aspirated test (“good”), on the systems test it achieved 77.5 points (“acceptable”); as good as most film-forming foams.
“Our detractors now claim Ecopol is not as good on polar solvents. Not so. Ecopol is extremely efficient on polar solvent fuel and you can understand the efforts we put into trying to show the industry that these products do work, and why it has become something of a crusade for both Dr Thierry Bluteau and I. The big test is still to come and that will be a new protocol planned for the near future with Lastfire. The oil industry is becoming less concerned about hydrocarbon fuels because Ethanol fuels will be the main product for vehicles in the very near future. These types of fuel known as E85 and E90 are a blend of Ethanol and petrol (85 per cent or 90 per cent Ethanol) and are essentially polar solvents blended with a small amount of hydrocarbon.
“Foams in the future will need to be alcohol resistant and of course Ecopol is a fluorosurfactant free alcohol resistant foam. It is very early days yet but there is talk that the new protocol with Lastfire is to include a similar test for E85 or E90. In the UK we already used E85 in limited volume, but it is growing. In Scandinavia it is the main fuel choice. Our next box to tick will be the Ethanol box and hopefully we will be one of the first manufacturers to test and prove that Ecopol is a viable option for the industry.”
Marketing manager at GB Solo James Brooks believes his company supplies the most ergonomically efficient protective helmets and the most versatile and rugged long-range thermal imaging cameras available today.
The 16th title in BP's Process Safety Series has been published by the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
"At last a book that explains how to deal effectively with real-life LNG emergency scenarios. It describes the latest fire fighting foam systems for responding to LNG spills and fires, and its recommendations are backed-up by new data from large-scale tests using realistic LNG storage and handling techniques", said Mike Willson, fire expert and foam product manager at Angus Fire, whose specialist fire fighting foam equipment features in the book.
The booklet, LNG Fire Protection & Emergency Response, has been written for fire and emergency responders; design and project engineers; facility operators; and safety professionals. It discusses the dangers of LNG as well as how special fire hazard management and emergency response measures should be implemented in the event of an LNG fire.
The title's recommendations are based on extensive testing of different types of foams and application techniques in a range of realistic LNG emergency scenarios. The tests were carried out at the new LNG testing and training facility developed by BP in collaboration with the Emergency Services Training Institute at Texas A&M University, USA.
The book includes sections on tanks, containment and spill control; jetties and marine facilities; passive fire protection; LNG, gas and fire detection; spill and fire control measures; emergency response plans; PPE; and codes and standards. Appendices include sections on LNG incidents and LNG road tanker incidents.
Priced at £32 ($64), the book can be purchased at www.icheme.org/shop, or by calling IChemE book sales on +44 (0) 1788 578214.
Garry Briese has been named board member of the new International Fire Service Research Center and Policy Institute.
The centre has been established by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (www.iafc.org) to build capacity and adaptability of fire organisations. “Garry is one of the most innovative leaders in national public safety and a distinguished professional whose first hand experience in emergency management makes him an invaluable member of this new and important institute,” said Mike Byrne, an ICF senior vice president.
A storage tank containing more than seven and half million litres of petrol in South Durban, South Africa, caught fire at the Engen refinery after it was apparently struck by lightning according to Engen refinery spokesperson Willem Oosthuizen.
The tank where the fire broke out did not have a solid top but a floating roof that rose or fell as it emptied or filled. It appears that the floating roof and seals had collapsed into the tank soon after the fire had begun, which meant that it was "a bit like fighting a fire burning in a cup". In an effort to prevent the fire spreading, adjacent tanks were being doused to keep them cool.
A fire that took place at a refinery in Coryton, Essex (UK), in October occurred 24 hours after an inspection by safety inspectors took place. The Health and Safety Executive’s hazardous installation inspectors carried out routine inspections, but a spokesperson pointed out that there was no link between the areas inspected and the blaze. Refinery managers have said that the fire broke out following a leak of petroleum gas.
Firefighters in Florida have been posting videos on YouTube of actual incidents including ones with such titles as “SWAT team and firefighter look for drug dealer in house fire,”
However, the videos have since been taken down after fire chiefs became aware of the activity. Barry Baker, head of the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association, said, “I had no idea anything like this was going on, but I can see some problems with it right away. As you can imagine, we’re pretty busy when you’re dealing with an emergency, and having somebody shooting video instead of doing something else could cause some problems.”
The videos had been traded among firefighters and enthusiasts who used them to discuss techniques, share ideas and recognise brave rescues; many of the videos were shot in the midst of burning houses and horrific roadside rescues.
A major fire incident was averted at the Shell Malaysia oil refinery after two crude oil storage tanks struck by lightning then caught fire. Shell’s own emergency response team responded to the incident and managed to stop the fire getting out of control and becoming a major incident.
A statement issued by Shell Refining Company Berhad said, “Our emergency response team was immediately deployed on-site to control the situation.” The team was joined by municipal firefighters who managed to put out the fire at one of the tanks within an hour. There were no casualties reported.
The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) says the huge fire that sent a tower of smoke over central London was caused by the ignition of insulation material and as a result has suspended hot working during demolition of buildings.
Demolition is being undertaken strictly by cold work processes after the ODA said the fire was caused by the ignition of insulation material within the walled cavity of the building during demolition work.
The material caught fire while steel piping was being cut using an oxy-acetylene torch. The ODA has confirmed the fire was an accident and there were no suspicious circumstances.
Although the building contained asbestos, the substance has not been detected in the air around the building during or after the fire or in dust and debris following the direction of the smoke plume.
A three-year investigation and the inspection of nearly 100 offshore installations has resulted in the offshore industry receiving a stark warning from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The sector was told that while significant improvements had been made, “more must be done!”.
The message came at the launch of the KP3 report, a major investigation carried out by the HSE’s Aberdeen-based Offshore Division into the safety and integrity of offshore installations and the equipment on them.
Speaking at the launch of the KP3 report, Health and Safety Commission Chair, Judith Hackitt said, “The KP3 report is an incredibly thorough investigation into the integrity of the assets in the offshore industry and was wide ranging in its scope. While the sector has co-operated fully with us over the last three years, there can be no mistaking our message to those in the board rooms of the oil and gas offshore companies – there is still much more to do.” The report is available on www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/kp3.pdf
Twenty-eight people were killed after an explosion and fire on a gas pipeline in eastern Saudi Arabia.
Saudi national oil company Aramco said the fire broke out while contract workers were joining a new pipe to the line on the 18th of November. Five of those killed were employees of Aramco.
Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest oil producer, located on the country’s east coast, and the Hawiyah plant produces 310,000 barrels of ethane and liquefied natural gas daily.
A report published by the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that looked into the major fire that took place on April 7th, 2003 in Oklahoma, has discovered it was caused by static discharge.
An 80,000-barrel floating roof storage tank exploded and then burned while it was being filled with diesel at a petroleum product storage terminal. The fire burned for 21 hours and damaged two other nearby storage tanks, and schools and residents were evacuated for two days. There were no injuries or fatalities but the amount of lost oil amounted to nearly two million dollars.
The fire was thought to have initially been caused by a lightning strike but the investigation discovered the causes included an improper procedure for switching the content of the tank from gasoline to diesel oil and an unsafe filling procedure. Because the flow rate of material into the tank was too high, and the tank level too low, the incoming liquid discharged into the vapour space of the tank and caused static electrical discharge in the tank vapour space and so creating a flammable atmosphere.
It is a pleasure to visit an industrial facility and find an emergency response team that is utterly convinced that its level of readiness for the unexpected is world class – and after visiting SembCorp Utilities’ 2000-acre facilities in Teesside, northeast UK, it is possible to see where this confidence comes from.