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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 operation, and any other mutual aid group that may supplement your own Departments’ response. 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. These goals should be the second stage of any pre-fire plan program for tank farm emergency operations. There 6 basic concepts that must be implemented for successful drills. They are; 1] Plan the drill so there will be no interruptions or pre-mature conclusion, 2] Plan the exercise under actual water flow conditions, on-site, at the tank farm and 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, lastly, 6] Hold a critique and arrange for a second response at a future date and time.

     There are two basic drills that are primary for tank farm firefighting 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 having both a seal fire and then a second 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 system planned for use.

     During the first exercise, key in on the fact that horizontal’s and 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 or the situation? 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 interior temperature. These scenarios should concentrate on smooth bore, large volume, nozzles. Fog nozzles cannot deliver the needed cooling volume to the target as well as LDH smooth-bores. 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 demonstrated that pressurized vessels have detonated in as little as 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 in clean areas? Answers to all of these questions determine the effectiveness of your fire 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 {or the 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 area 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, potentially sinking the roof.

     The third exercise will test the company 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, will need to be in-place and functioning simultaneously. With multiple lines flowing, this is also an excellent test for the surface drainage in the dike area. Will the existing drainage "berms" 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 off-site sewer system? Once a real fire has started, you cannot correct this problem it must be evaluated and challenges corrected, with training scenarios. 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 can coordinate, but line supervisors must physically participate.

                                          Haz Mat Mike

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