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Haz Mat "Specialist Course"
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Simulated Drills for Tank Fires

     When coordinating practice drills for tank fires, the instructor should have intimate knowledge of the resources he will use, the tank farm uses, and any other mutual aid group that may supplement your own department operations. Meetings and discussions of all factors involved is not sufficient. Supervisors themselves must assemble and operate tank farm firefighting equipment on all scenarios planned for simulated tank fire situations. This should be the second stage of any pre-fire plan program. The first should be implementing concepts for successful drills. They are; 1] Plan the drill so there will be no interruptions or pre-mature interruption, 2] Plan the exercise under actual water flow conditions on-site at the tank farm, 3] Perform the drill realistically, no shortcuts!, 4] pre-check runoff drains so that they can handle the flow of a real tank fire runoff, 5] demonstrate extinguishing agents, flow water, and discuss limitations, and 6] Hold a critique and arrange for a second response at a future date and time.

     There are two basic drills that are best done for tank farm operations. The first involves a pressurized gas storage tank with failed sprinkler systems, necessitating the need for portable monitors. The second is a low pressure liquid storage tank with both a seal fire and then another scenario involving a full surface tank fire. These two “styles” afford the instructor three separate evolutions to be spaced accordingly. Since there are multiple elements involved, 1] should be the high pressure gas tank, 2] can be the seal fire, and 3] should be the full surface tank fire. The first scenario should involve the instructor “walking through” the exercise and answering questions. Lay down supply lines and explain the benefits and drawbacks of each.

     During the first exercise, key in on the fact that horizontal’s or other pressure tanks that have welded ends are weaker in holding strength than solid “course” midsections. This is most often seen in the case of horizontal tanks with spherical head ends. What is the reach capability for your long range streams? Are you using fog or smooth bore nozzles? What is the tendency of portable monitors to drift off target? If they do, will you have to man them? Can this be safely accomplished by your organization? If there are fixed monitors in place, do they function to your needed expectations? In attacking pressurized gas storage tanks, your primary concern is cooling the tanks exterior to lower the interior products temperature. These scenarios should concentrate on smooth bore, large volume, nozzles. Fog nozzles do not deliver volume to the target as well as LDH smoothbores. Before running the monitor attack on pressurized tanks, the sprinkler system should be checked. Does it run? How long does the start-up take? History has shown, that pressurized vessels have detonated in as little as eight, {8} minutes after flame exposure. Are there dry spots unprotected by the sprinkler system underneath the pressurized tank? Is the water distribution even over the entire tank? Is the tank dirty, shaping water flow contact only clean areas? All of these questions have an affect on the effectiveness of your attack cooling water.

     Once you have re-scheduled for the second scenario, make sure the students are aware of the attack format, and that they will perform this operation in real time. For a seal fire in an open roof floater, they should be expected to; 1] choose the correct extinguish method, 2] elevate themselves {attack team} to the seal area, 3] actively check to make sure the roof drains are open and functioning, {this requires a water flow test}, and 4] proceed to the seal section involved in fire and make the extinguishment. If you so desire a run-through for each, this is fine, but the actual training should eventually be timed. The key hear is to decide what you will do, and do it before; the seal fire becomes a full surface tank fire, subsequently sinking the roof.

     The third exercise will test agency man-power as well as their skills. In this scenario, volume application will have to be calculated, supplies set-up at strategic points, Foam lines as well as cooling lines, all need to be in-place and functioning simultaneously. With multiple cooling lines flowing, this is also an excellent test for surface drainage in the dike area. Will the existing lines handle this amount of flow? Are they restricted by physical means that daily routine inspection and housekeeping can remedy? If the farm is set up to flow into a burn pit, will this system perform? Can this procedure be accomplished without losing the fuel product into the sewer system? Once a real fire has started, you cannot correct this problem. Drainage tests can also assist the fire Marshall in inspecting the functionality and safety of the facility.

     It is absolutely critical that this pre-fire training in the field be done by the supervisors who may be in charge of fire control at the time of an emergency. Even with excellent training, problems can develop, and the supervisor must be able to diagnose and size up problems at tank fires during a time of high stress and probable poor visibility. The instructor shall coordinate, but the line supervisors must physically participate.

                                         Haz Mat Mike

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