Emergency Response

Emergency Response Tips

When emergencies happen, a well organised and drilled facility will cope better and minimise loss to people, assets and the environment. Here are some tips on deploying an effective emergency response.

  1. Keep it simple Avoid multiple alarms – One alarm with an audible voice works best to deal with a toxic gas release.
    Coordinate alarms with local plants – contractors working on multiple plants will forget what alarm is for what plant within an hour of their induction. Don’t kid yourself.
    Do you need an “all clear”? Sometimes these exist just to give the local community a “warm feeling” that everything is under control.
  2. Toxic Gas release – Stay indoors, close windows, shut down air con systems. For those outside: move cross wind ( a windsock is needed).
  3. Earthquake – There is nothing you can do until it is over. The plant must look after itself. Does it need an earthquake trigger for an ESD? Sometimes vibration trips on rotating equipment will do the job. The operators won’t be able to do anything other than hang on so don’t fool yourself by giving them multiple things to do. Once it is over things don’t get much better. The operators will (rightly) be more interested in their families and will likely leave. Again: The plant must take care of itself.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice – This is the only way to stop the event turning into episode of “Keystone Cops”.
    Example: An emergency evacuation exercise was carried out at 11am on a Friday. 3 people stayed put, thinking it was Wednesday at 10am when the alarms were normally tested. They didn’t do it again.
    Define your scenarios then, give the night shift a scenario each month to walk through physically. Check the hoses reach and rescue equipment is available and serviceable.
    Exercises are invaluable. The authors personal opinion is that they should be largely unannounced (let the panel operator know just beforehand), have spotters stationed around the plant, then debrief like an investigation with a timeline. The involvement of the emergency services may make it complex, but they should be informed just before the exercise. Similarly, for the local community.
  5. Confined SpaceThis is a significant topic and will be dealt with separately, except to comment on the use of breathing apparatus (BA). When asked about BA sets and BA training, a common reply is that “we leave that to the emergency services”. The majority of confined space fatalities are though lack of oxygen and the reason for this is often not known. The rule of thumb is, 4 mins (after loss of breathing air) before death or permanent brain damage. Do you think the emergency services can respond in that time or even close? Multiple fatalities have resulted when people attempt to rescue their workmates unprepared.

These are just a few comments on emergency response. If you have any other examples of insights, we’d love to hear from you.