One of the points that we keep hearing from clients is, “Preplanning pays the best dividends.” It is the least expensive thing that can be done and pays off with the best return on investment. Most companies cannot insure for their R&D efforts, so actively managing their risk is important.
Here’s why, most domestic fire departments (often even more challenging overseas), are more comfortable dealing with residential types of incidents vs. industrial incidents. Industrial sites often anticipate fire as a potential hazard and feature engineered built-in systems, such as suppression systems and on-site water supplies, to protect against it. It behooves firefighters and EHS/Facilities Management to know where these systems are, how they work, and how to use them before an incident occurs and it does not necessarily need to be a fire incident. It could be HAZMAT, storm related, burst pipes, barricaded subjects, etc. Only through preplanning will responders and facilities management know the basis of communication, and for example that a site has a manually operated fire pump that someone must turn on and off to work properly, or that a gas shut-off is behind some bushes or equipment, or the location of the emergency activation switch for the gas generator’s fire-suppression system, or what door number to go through to get to an incident. Incidents at many commercial and industrial facilities however, pose an entirely different set of challenges and hazards, which include not only fire, but also explosions and overpressures, electrocution, pressurized fires and exposure to noise and chemicals. These hazards require firefighters and other first responders to employ tactics somewhat different from those employed in residential/commercial buildings. Why? Industrial plants usually include such systems as air, water, steam, gas or other utilities that operate under high pressure and/or in high or low temperatures. Plants of almost any size include utility areas that generate or receive these utilities (such as steam or compressed air) and modify them (such as in natural gas pressure-reducing stations) for plant use or handle them as waste streams. In addition, the trend within industrial facilities is moving toward the extreme, meaning they utilize very high pressures and temperatures or very low temperatures, which can create specific problems.
In an industrial facility, you are likely to have many of the below-mentioned types of areas, and each one poses its own unique challenges:
- Utility Rooms with specialized equipment
- Maintenance Areas
- Processing Areas
- Laboratory Areas
- Warehousing and Storage Areas
- Data/Computer Centers
- Construction Lay Down Areas
Finding a knowledgeable facility representative and getting briefed on what’s going on and what they can do to help is not always easy due to the emergency at hand, lack of experience, out sourcing of the facilities management role etc.
We made the commitment to be the only software and services company to be committee members on NFPA 1660/1620, which is the “Standard for Pre-incident Planning”. We have also been able to forge some terrific “public-private partnerships” along the way by doing this. We all recognize that keeping an incident at the smallest manageable level is key. Whether a fire, EMS, or police incident, all of the stakeholders/responders can operate off of a modern and secure cloud-based platform that conforms to the standard. Updating and sharing preplans with mutual aid and other select organizations is important and being able to do it online and not use paper binders allows information to be updated and propagated immediately to all concerned.
So why preplan industrial sites and manage risks?:
- Develop a better understanding of the area at risk
- Internal Audits and OSHA Compliance improves
- Estimate the risk populations and critical infrastructure that may be affected
- We know where sources of water and other resources reside
- We understand where hazardous product may drain if a spill occurs
- We can exercise the plan to provide a more prompt and efficient response to our customers.
- Minimize financial impacts and supply chain interruptions
- Front end to the business continuity plan. BCP is very expensive compared to pre-planning as that means something has gone dramatically wrong.
- Preplanning helps to give a “heads-up” during a high-stress event.
Additionally, having the preplans online lends itself to tabletop drills and training.
Let us know how we can help your organization!