When employees and responders are familiar with fire pre-plans, site-details, and respective responsibilities, they can quickly evaluate tank fires and initiate proven tactical responses with minimal delays. Pre-incident planning, preparedness and coordination of response strategies should be considered and made part of response plans, drills, and exercises
Identification of tank location in relation to facility entrances and fire-fighting equipment is critical in a timely response. This can be securely shared with responders through a web-based system with facility plot plans and detailed photographs. Other key fire pre-plan information should include individual tank specifications such as:
- Tank roof type
- Tank surface area
- Internal diameter
- Tank height
- Tank insulation
- Total dike surface area
- Dike capacity
- Dike drain valve location
Many established plans, including fire pre-plans, are inadequate for an effective response, out-of-date, or inaccessible to those that need the plans the most. These mistakes may stem from a failure to coordinate during the plan developmental process, inconsistent plan formats, or a lack of change management procedures. In order to be effective, site-specific tank and facility details must be incorporated any response plan. The following generic emergency management procedures should be considered when developing site-specific response plans for facilities with storage tanks. (NOTE: Specific characteristics of the tank, product, and available resources should be evaluated prior to implementing any response plan procedures.)
Initial Response Actions/Notifications/Warning:
- Warn others in the immediate area through verbal communication and/or activate local alarms.
- Take immediate personal protective measures (PPE, move to safe location, etc.).
- Activate emergency services and other firefighting resources.
- Implement local response actions if safe to do so, and consistent with level of training and area specific procedures (process shutdowns, activate fire protection systems, etc.).
- Proceed with internal and external notifications.
- Determine and communicate shelter-in-place and/or evacuation directives
- Account for all personnel at the site. Confirm with entry/exit log if applicable
- Evacuate, as necessary, and monitor routes for safety
- Establish secure perimeters, safety zones, and required security measures.
- Minimize site entry to essential personnel and responders.
- If appropriate, ground fires should be extinguished first. Exercise care after the ground fire is extinguished to avoid disrupting the foam blanket over the spilled materials.
- Cease tank operations, such as filling or withdrawing product, as soon as possible to eliminate tank content turbulence.
- Trained company personnel, such as those on the internal fire brigade may extinguish the fire if it is within their training level parameters. It is imperative that responses are conducted in accordance with personnel training levels.
- A response effort may be required by an internal fire brigade or external emergency personnel (ex. mutual aid groups, local fire departments, etc.)
- The following concepts should be considered in the event of a crude tank fire when developing response procedures:
- A boil over covers approximately 7 times the tank area and extends into the air approximately 10 times the tank diameter.
- Consumption rate of crude oil due to burning is approximately 12-18 inches per hour.
- The heat wave advances from the top of the liquid towards the bottom of the tank at approximately 24-36 inches per hour.
- A modified fog cooling stream may be periodically applied to the side of the tank to help determine the location of the heat wave in the tank.
- Evacuation of the area should be considered as the heat wave approaches the bottom few feet of the tank.
- Foam solution should only be applied through the tank foam chambers, if possible, to avoid the risk of static build-up
- During an atmospheric tank fire, while using cooling streams on the tank exterior, additional attention should be given to applying cooling streams on the foam chambers and foam supply lines as well as the process lines within the dike area.
- Cooling streams on adjacent tanks should be applied as needed only. A cooling stream should periodically be applied to the exposed tank. If stream is given off, the cooling stream application should be continued until steam is no longer apparent. This will help reduce the demands on the fire water delivery system, and will minimize the water handling and disposal concerns from the tank dike areas.
- Pumping out the product of the tank may worsen the fire if the sides have been distorted and the roof does not lower evenly.
- Mid-range gravity crude oils have the potential for a boil over during fires that last for extended periods.