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Fire: The Most Common Emergency Hazard for Businesses

Posted on Thu, Sep 13, 2012

Every year, fires cause billions of dollars in property damage and unnecessary deaths and injuries. Safeguarding businesses from fire loss should begin with fire pre-planning, effective mitigation measures, and employees training.

During 2006-2010, an estimated 42,800 fires in or at industrial or manufacturing properties (including utility, defense, agriculture, and mining) were reported to U.S. fire departments per year, with associated annual losses of 22 civilian deaths, 300 civilian injuries, and $951 million in direct property damage. - National Fire Protection Association

Fire Pre-plans can remove many of the uncertainties surrounding a company’s emergency planning strategy and tactical decision-making process. As a result, local responders can enter into an emergency situation conscious of existing factors, minimizing unnecessary risk. These plans should enhance the detail of an emergency response plan, giving the responders every possible advantage in responding effectively to a fire.

FEMA provides a variety of suggestions that can be included in the developmental planning process. Companies should consider the following:

  • Collaborative planning with local fire department. Identify and discuss potential hazards.
  • Coordinate a facility fire hazards inspection by the responding local fire department.
  • Seek assistance in identifying applicable fire codes and regulations.
  • Establish employee training that highlights fire prevention and containment methods, if applicable.
  • Establish and identify alarm system and subsequent evacuation procedures.
  • Conduct evacuation drills using maps of evacuation routes. It is crucial to keep evacuation routes clear of obstructions and debris.
  • Assign personnel to monitor shutdown, evacuation, and muster procedures.
  • Identify and mark all utility shut off locations so that they can be shut off quickly by fire wardens or responding personnel.
  • Establish procedures for proper fire prevention handling and storage of flammable liquids and gases.
  • Establish a preventive equipment maintenance schedule to reduce fire risk.
  • Place fire extinguishers in appropriate locations and install smoke detectors. Extinguishers must be inspected annually. Test detectors monthly and change batteries at least once a year.
  • Consider installing a sprinkler system, fire hoses and fire-resistant walls and doors as part of mitigation measures.

Fire prevention requirements for businesses vary based on numerous operational and location factors specific to each individual business. However, there are several common state-adopted fire code regulations based on the National Fire Protection Association standard. Local authorities, such as cities and counties, typically set more stringent and advanced fire codes levels than those at the state level.  It is important to collaborate with local fire departments to ensure compliance and identify the level of internal response appropriate for the specific operations and consistent with employee training.

FEMA lays out five level of response that most businesses will adopt if a fire occurs at the site. Options include:

  1. Option 1 -- Immediate evacuation of all personnel at the onset of specific alarms.
  2. Option 2 -- All personnel are trained in fire extinguisher use. Personnel in the immediate area of a fire attempt to prevent spreading, as per appropriate training. In addition, the fire alarm is sounded and all personnel evacuate.
  3. Option 3 -- Only designated personnel are trained in fire extinguisher use.
  4. Option 4 -- A fire team is trained to fight incipient-stage fires that can be controlled without protective equipment or breathing apparatus. Beyond this level fire, the team evacuates.
  5. Option 5 -- A fire team is trained and equipped to fight fires using protective equipment and breathing apparatus.

Well-trained employees are invaluable during a fire. For additional information on assessing employee capabilities for firefighting and appropriate response options, see TRP’s blog entitled Applicability of Emergency Action Plans and Fire Extinguisher Use. The culmination of the emergency planning process and development of an effective plan should minimize operational disruptions, and improve organizational stability and recovery time.

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

TRP Fire Pre Plan Image

Tags: Fire Pre Plans, Fire Preparedness, Incident Management, Facility Management, Emergency Action Plan

OSHA Tank Fire Prevention - Hot Work Mitigation Measures

Posted on Mon, Jun 11, 2012

Two contractors were welding atop a 10,000-gallon slurry tank when hot sparks ignited flammable vapors inside the tank, causing an explosion that killed one contractor and seriously injured another. The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) determined that the November 9, 2010 incident was caused by the increased temperature of the metal tank, sparks falling into the tank, or vapor wafting from the tank into the hot work area.

As a result, the CSB set forth new recommendations regarding “hot work”, which is defined as welding, cutting, grinding, or other spark-producing activities. Recommendations include:

  • Enforce safety procedures for hot work permits and ensure explosion hazards associated with hot work activity are recognized and mitigated.
  • Revise corporate procedures to require all process piping and vent piping be positively isolated before authorizing any hot work.
  • Require air monitoring for flammable vapor inside tanks and other containers where hot work is to be performed.

Advanced planning, safe work procedures, and mitigation measures can help prevent tank fires and explosions caused by hot works activities. The Occupational Safety and Health Standard (OSHA), 1910.252(a)(3)(i), states that “No welding, cutting, or other hot work shall be performed on used drums, barrels, tanks or other containers until they have been cleaned so thoroughly as to make absolutely certain that there are no flammable materials present or any substances such as greases, tars, acids, or other materials which when subjected to heat, might produce flammable or toxic vapors. Any pipe lines or connections to the drum or vessel shall be disconnected or blanked.”

According to OSHA, possible mitigation measures for hot work include:

  • Perform hot work in a safe location, or with fire hazards removed or covered
  • Use guards to confine the heat, sparks, and slag, and to protect the immovable fire hazards.
  • Do not perform hot work where flammable vapors or combustible materials exist. Work and equipment should be relocated outside of the hazardous areas, when possible.
  • Make suitable fire-extinguishing equipment immediately available. Such equipment may consist of pails of water, buckets of sand, hose, or portable extinguishers.
  • Assign additional personnel (fire watch) to guard against fire while hot work is being performed. Fire watchers are required whenever welding or cutting is performed in locations where anything greater than a minor fire might develop
  • Monitor the atmosphere with a gas detector. If a flammable or combustible gas exceeds 10 percent of the lower explosive level (LEL), the work must be stopped. Identify the source of the gas and repair the leakage.

Although mitigation measures can limit the potential for hot work accidents, companies should create a fire pre-plan to reduce response times and improve the effectiveness of a response in the event of a fire.

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

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Tags: Fire Pre Plans, OSHA, Fire Preparedness, CSB

Risk Mitigation Measures to Minimize Hazards and Business Disruptions

Posted on Thu, Mar 29, 2012

Tornadoes, wildfires, and hurricanes are natural events that can affect the day to day operations of any business.  But incidents that alter the course of operations can also stem from Internet outages, security issues, supply breakdowns, and on-site hazardous materials. Each facility has its own unique associated risks, however through dedicated risk mitigation analysis and proactive measures, hazards and business disruptions can be minimized.

While all risks cannot not be avoided, companies can become better prepared for disasters if the following risk mitigation measures are considered:

1. Identify potential arrangements and assets that can directly minimize the impact of the associated threats including purchasing backup generator, identifying alternate suppliers, contract tree removal companies, or other clean-up vendors.

2. Identify effective facility procedures that may minimize risks including performing scheduled data backups, developing effective response procedures, and exercise emergency response plans.

3. Estimate the cost for implementing of mitigation measures specific to each process and prioritize budgeting, as necessary.

4. Identify and update the recovery point objective to determine what minimum processes need to be “up and running” to conduct business and the time frame that data needs be recovered.

5. Revise and update the “Impact Level” if mitigation measures identified are fully implemented.

6. Evaluate and update the “Likelihood Level” of these events.

7. Periodically review and update mitigation methods.

For a free guide that details the world of HAZWOPER training, download A Guide to HAZWOPER Training.

HAZWOPER training guide

Tags: Business Continuity key points, Crisis Mapping, Business Continuity, Fire Preparedness, Emergency Management, Resiliency

Informative Videos for EHS Professionals and Emergency Managers

Posted on Mon, Feb 20, 2012

Below are a various informative videos that may assist professionals in emergency response planning.
Note: These video are meant to be informative, and do not replace mandated training.

OSHA Construction Hazard Prevention videos: These based on actual event series of videos demonstrate work site incidences that resulted in an employee injury or death. Corrective actions for preventing these types of accidents are discussed.

How to Use a Portable Fire Extinguisher Training Video: This video was created by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers' Association to train viewers on how to assess a potential fire situation and use a portable fire extinguisher in the event of a fire emergency.

Oil Spill 101: Blocking with boom: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration video on how boom contains an oil spill, including the four main types of boom used

2012 Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG): The 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook contains the latest dangerous goods lists from the United Nations Recommendations, as well as from other international and national regulations. The 2012 ERG is designed for emergency responders to quickly and accurately access a HAZMAT incident.

Exxon Valdez: 20 Year later: Detailed video of the historical events regarding the Exxon Valdez spill that resulted in the passing of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90 ).

Incident Command System: Positions & Responsibilities: With the Salvation Army as the backdrop organization, this video highlights the roles and responsibilities of key positions within the Incident Command System.

Sorting Out SPCC: Video that details the EPA regulated SPCC plans.  Video is directed at new farm regulations, however, the it provides an overview of the EPA's Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Program.

Iron in the Fire: U.S. Chemical Safety Board reviews of chemical dust fires in 2011.

For a sample Emergency Response Checklist, download our helpful and informative guide.

Tags: NOAA, Fire Preparedness, Emergency Management, Incident Management, SPCC, OPA 90, Oil Spill, Video

General Emergency Response Fire Fighting Guidelines

Posted on Mon, Nov 14, 2011

In the event of a fire, properly trained staff can have a substantial impact on reducing damages. Emergency response firefighting guidelines for three different industrial scenarios are as follows:

A. Pressurized hydrocarbon vapors or LPG1.

  1. Block in and depressurize the fuel source before extinguishing the fire. Use water spray to cool exposed equipment during this period.
  2. Extinguishing agents are water fog pattern sprays, CO2, or dry chemical.
  3. Approach LPG storage tanks from the sides.
  4. If the pitch of the materials from venting safety devices or other vents increases, or if a discoloration of the vessel is detected, immediately evacuate the area.
  5. Extinguish the fire at the source of the fuel first and then move outward.

B. Flammable liquids (flash points below 140°F)

  1. Flammable liquids include, but are not limited to crude oil, gasoline, and naphtha.
  2. Extinguishing agents are CO2, dry chemical, or foam. While water is not generally used to extinguish flammable liquid fires, it can be used to cool exposed equipment.
  3. Extinguish ground fires first.
  4. Avoid plunging streams of the extinguishing agent into pooled liquids to avoid spreading or increasing the intensity of the fire.
  5. Apply foam at recommended rates for the specified duration. Do not break foam blankets on spilled materials.

C. Combustible liquids (flash points above 140°F)

  1. Combustible liquids include certain fuel oils, asphalts, gas oils, clarified slurry oil, etc.
  2. Extinguishing agents are CO2, dry chemical, water fog, or foam.
  3. Water must be used with caution for liquids above 200°F. It may cause frothing and should only be used used on the surface of the liquid as a light surface to remove heat.
  4. Extinguish ground fires first. Avoid plunging streams of the extinguishing agent into pooled liquids to avoid spreading or increasing the intensity of the fire.
  5. Apply foam at recommended rates for the specified duration. Do not break foam blankets on spilled materials. Do not use foam on liquids with temperatures above 200°F.

For a free guide that details the world of HAZWOPER training, download A Guide to HAZWOPER Training.

HAZWOPER training guide

Tags: Fire Department Training, Fire Pre Plans, Fire Preparedness, Crisis Management, Incident Management