CSB releases final report into 2016 refinery fire that seriously injured four workers

September 18, 2017, Washington, D.C.  - At a public business meeting in Washington, DC, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a safety bulletin on the November 22, 2016 fire that severely burned four workers at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.   The fire occurred during maintenance activities when operators inadvertently removed bolts that secured a piece of pressure-containing equipment to a plug valve. When the operators attempted to open the plug valve, the valve came apart and released flammable hydrocarbons, which formed a vapor cloud that quickly ignited.   Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Our investigation found that these accepted practices were conducted without appropriate safety hazard analysis, needlessly injuring these workers. It is important to remember that good safety practices are good maintenance practices and good business practices.”   A key safety lesson discussed in the bulletin is the “hierarchy of controls.” This is a method of evaluating...
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Fuel tank failures spill 145,000 gallons during Harvey

More than two dozen storage tanks holding crude oil, gasoline and other contaminants ruptured or otherwise failed when Harvey slammed into the Texas coast, spilling at least 145,000 gallons (548,868 liters) of fuel and spewing toxic pollutants into the air, according to an Associated Press analysis of pollution reports submitted to state and federal regulators.   To read the entire article, CLICK HERE .
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US floods rescue workers sue over chemical plant fire

Crosby, TX - Seven emergency workers who responded to the aftermath of last month's mega-storm Harvey sued chemical company Arkema Thursday for exposing them to smoke from a fire at its flooded Texas plant.   To read the entire article, CLICK HERE .    
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200-plus Virginia plant workers laid off following fire

CULPEPER, VA — More than 200 people learned last week that they were officially being laid off from their jobs at Communications Corporation of America in Culpeper, the large direct mail printing facility destroyed in a fire Aug. 26.   To read the entire article, CLICK HERE .
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Coast Guard tests new oil spill technology as Arctic waters open up

In late July, the Aqua-Guard Triton RotoX dipped into the icy Beaufort Sea. The goal was to test whether the prototype could clean up an oil spill in the Arctic. To read article, CLICK HERE      
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CSB orders investigation into chemical plant fire in Crosby, TX

An investigation of the Arkema chemical plant emergency in Crosby, TX has been initiated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board but will not move forward until the emergency has been resolved, a CSB official said Thursday. In a press release, CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said the agency had been closely monitoring events related to Hurricane Harvey. "All of us at the CSB have been watching the events in the Gulf Coast region over the last several days and join in our prayerful hopes for the recovery and restoration of the region," Sutherland said. "We have two employees of the CSB who are based in the Houston area, and we are grateful that they and their families are safe." Specifically, the CSB is initiating an investigation of the Arkema emergency. The plant, which manufactures organic peroxides, lost refrigeration to all its cold-storage warehouses after power went out and the backup generators...
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Texas Gulf Coast faces repeat of 2001 Tropical Storm Allison disaster

EDITORS NOTE: With Hurricane Harvey barrelling toward the Texas Gulf Coast, it might be time to remember a similar emergency in 2001 that raised havoc with the petroleum industry. The following article is taken from the book "Disasters Man-Made," written by David White and Anton Riecher.   TROPICAL STORM ALLISON set the stage for one of the seminal events in modern industrial fire fighting – the successful extinguishment of a burning jumbo storage tank with substantial product saved. Every firefighter who participated in this breakthrough can claim a piece of the history making story.   “The thing I will remember about this fire is the dedication shown by the firefighters, the teamwork and their ability to shift to a higher gear even when they were tired,” said J.R. Chidester, fire chief for the Orion Oil refinery complex in Norco, LA.   Dwight Williams, contracted by Orion to assist Chidester, specializes in...
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Dubai's Marina Torch Tower ablaze again

  Flames scorched a path up nearly two-thirds of Dubai’s 87-story Marina Torch Tower Friday in the spectacular repeat of a February 2015 blaze that swept along the exterior of the fifth tallest residential building in the world.     That earlier fire earned the cover of the Spring 2015 issue of Industrial Fire World.   According to Dubai Civil Defence, the fire Friday broke out on the 26th floor shortly before 1 a.m. Dubai time. In slightly over an hour, the fire crept up 64 stories of the building’s exterior, damaging 38 apartments in the process. Interior damage was also reported on the 83rd and 84th floors.   Firefighters were able to evacuated 475 residents with no injuries reported, authorities said. No cause has been reported for the fire.   In the 2015 fire, an official with Dubai Civil Defense said evidence at the scene left little doubt that the...
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Pierce introduces high flow industrial fire apparatus at Fire Rescue International

Pierce Manufacturing’s newest fire truck, the Pierce® High Flow Industrial Apparatus, is capable of flowing 5,500 gallons per minute when drafting, and up to 10,000 gallons per minute when drawing from a pressurized water source. The vehicle was formally introduced to the public in July at Fire Rescue International in Charlotte, NC.   Shortly before that, the vehicle was demonstrated at the annual Texas Industrial Fire School at Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, TX.     In emergency scenarios, when an industrial pumper is called into action, maximum water and foam flow are the top priorities, said Matt McLeish, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing of the Fire & Emergency segment.   “That’s exactly what we’ve accomplished with the new Pierce High Flow Industrial Apparatus – its numbers are off the charts, and set the new performance benchmark,” he said. “Equally important, however, is the firefighting system’s endurance,...
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XTREME: Annual Williams F&HC school returns to its roots at Brayton

College Station, TX, is now one of three annual international stops made by the Williams Fire & Hazard Control Xtreme Industrial Fire & Hazard Training event held at Brayton Fire Training Field in June. The other two upcoming stops for the event are Saint-Marcel, France, in September and Rayong, Thailand, in January, said Chauncey Naylor, director of emergency response and training at Williams Fire. “Now that we are a Johnson Control company we have the ability to bring this program to other parts of the world and we are not stopping there,” Naylor told firefighters attending the June event. “We have plant to add yet another region to the schedule.” Designed primarily for advance level firefighters, the event includes classroom study and practical exercises to cover various incident profiles and fire dynamics, foam and dry chemical applications, response logistics and field operations and large-volume equipment applications. The event at Brayton marked...
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Some people like the heat ...

Michael F. Marchan prefers a tropical climate. He grew up on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and spent 18 years in operations at the Hovensa refinery there before it closed in 2012. Shortly thereafter he became a shift lead at the Seaport Canaveral fuel terminal in Florida.   Fittingly enough, when the company decided he needed fire training he ended up at the Williams Fire & Hazard Control Xtreme school held at Brayton Fire Training Field in Texas. “What our company does is every year we sponsor four people – two operators and two firefighters – to attend this school,” Marchan said. “It helps build trust and goodwill with the guys that have our back. It also gives us good experience so we can understand what our firefighters need.” Marchan’s state-of-the-art terminal has a capacity of nearly three million barrels of refined products. Its 24 tanks offer storage for gasoline,...
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Wrapped Up Tight - Issues with flammable cladding stretch back more than 40 years

For many years I have closely followed the progress of fire fighting in Scottsdale, AZ, a city that incorporated in 1952 with a population of about 2,000 and has grown to more than a quarter million residents today. Unlike most cities, Scottsdale, following a period of industrial issues with the municipal fire department members, contracted out to a private provider. A key step to reduce the number and size of fires was an ordinance passed in the 1980s requiring that all future buildings have fire sprinklers installed.     No doubt the construction industry objected mightily to such an unwarranted regulatory intervention, predicting the demise of all new development. And, yet, Scottsdale today prospers as a major resort stop drawing more than seven million people annually.  An outstanding fire safety record helps, not hurts. Reducing the number of fires and their severity likewise reduces the need for multiple fire appliances, fuel,...
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Dave's Notes: ‘I told you so’ again

Outside of television sitcoms, does anyone still use the smug phrase “I told you so?” I think of couples bickering over being late for dinner or the movies. “You have no one to blame but yourself,” usually shuts off further debate. Then why, in the wake of London’s Grenfell Towers fire, is it the phrase foremost in my thoughts? Once again, warnings went unheeded. In the May-June 2009 issue of Industrial Fire World, the column “Risk Assessment” dealt with increased fire risk blamed on exterior insulation and finishing systems (EIFS). (See http://tinyurl.com/yaeqkop8 ) “The architects like to use EFIS because architectural features such as columns and decorative attachments can be created rather easily at a low cost,” the column states. “The finish coat can be made to look like poured concrete, concrete blocks, bricks or anything the architect wants.” Unfortunately, some companies that claim to install EIFS systems use unapproved polyurethane-coated...
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Chevron chiefs gather in Texas for annual meeting

Bringing emergency responders together for an annual corporate fire school is not enough for Chevron. In conjunction with the company’s April fire school, Chevron brought together all its industrial fire chiefs as well. Robert Taylor, fire captain with Chevron’s El Segundo, CA, refinery, said the annual chiefs meeting is part of the effort to standardize emergency response company-wide and remain current with new equipment and technology.   “The chiefs discuss issues such as standards for whether a firefighter is fit for duty to what type of turnout gear, equipment and foam to buy,” Taylor said. “That way we are comparing apples to apples when working in a group setting with representatives from our different fire brigades.” Standardization is also an important factor in training. “We brought in 15 instructors from all the various locations,” he said. “It can be really difficult to get instructors to be consistent with their messaging. The...
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Chevron tests new Brayton fire prop

Pre-planning for a live-fire training exercise should be based on what the responder observes first hand, not on word-of-mouth from other firefighters who have trained using the same prop, said Robert Taylor, fire captain with Chevron’s El Segundo, CA, refinery. “We want you to read the fire,” he said. “See what is presented to you and react to that based on a combination of your knowledge and experience.” Taylor served as Chevron’s press liaison during its corporate fire school in April at Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, TX. He also served as one of 15 fire instructors training the nearly 60 full-time and volunteer firefighters attending.     His comment about pre-planning came during a debriefing following a training scenario involving Brayton’s new 45-foot diameter storage tank project. “I want you to dissect this on what we think went well and where were the opportunities,” Taylor told the firefighters....
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LyondellBasell brings ERT to Brayton Fire Training Field

LyondellBasell’s manufacturing holdings in Pasadena, Texas, is so vast an enterprise that the single corporate fire brigade covering the three separate plant sites requires two fire chiefs to operate. One of the two chiefs, or emergency response coordinators, serving LyondellBasell’s Bayport Complex in Pasadena is Co Deborde. The nickname “Co” stands for Cecil O’Neal. A 27-year employee at Bayport Complex, Deborde began as an operator serving on the fire brigade. “We were all trained in ERT response,” he said. In addition, Deborde became a volunteer with the local municipal department, serving 17 years before retiring. Deborde is responsible for the Bayport Choate plant, a 280-acre plant that produces propylene oxide, tertiary butyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propylene glycol ethers and tertiary butyl hyderoperoxide. His authority also covers the adjacent plant, Bayport Polymers, which manufactures material used in consumer products such as food containers, medical syringes and carpeting. The site also produces material...
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Mission Driven: Work to eliminate uncertainty and surprises

Agencies are experiencing an explosion of complexity, and with that, increased expectations and accountability. Federal assistance is shrinking or at best, flat lined. These trends drive the need for greater adaptability, and increasing the speed of the decision cycle.  The model of hierarchal, centralized command and control reflects an obsolete leadership paradigm that believes people are cogs and controllable by systems.  This model fails in large, dynamic events. Information cannot flow ‘up’, be decided upon, and flow ‘down’ fast enough before the decision is rendered irrelevant by changing circumstance. Paradoxically, centralization seems part of our nature.  For the most part, emergency responders work in government agencies that tend to be bureaucracies.  Bureaucracies seek equilibrium and self-preservation. The goal is eliminating uncertainty and surprises. The absence of bad things becomes valued more than the presence of good things.  The well-worn path to avoid bad things is to make lots of rules and...
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Big Flow: Training operation breaks flow record for fire water

Responders reached a big flow of 49,000 gallons per minute from an array of deluge guns, pumps and large diameter hose lines during a June training operation by the New Jersey Urban Area Security Initiative Neptune Task Force. “I think what we achieved is a new unofficial record,” said Bob Gliem, industrial products specialist for Ferrara Fire Apparatus. Ferrara provided a rear mount Inundator Super Pumper with a 5,000 gpm draft pump for the exercise.   The previous record for combined water flow by firefighting apparatus cited by the participating Elizabeth (NJ) Fire Department is 41,000 gpm. Held at Berth 25 at Port Newark, NJ, the exercise sought to shoot a volume between 49,000 gpm and 51,000 gpm over a distance of 500 feet. The Neptune Task Force is a consortium of more than a dozen firefighting agencies and organizations in and around the New York Harbor region. The consortium takes...
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Flash Forward: Upcoming Edition of NFPA 2112 Reflects Substantive Changes

Flash fire protection is an important safety aspect for personnel who work around flammable substances, such as solvents, fuels, dusts and gases. While fires involving these substances can occur very quickly, an additional hazard results from flammable garments that can continue burning on personnel after the fire has passed. NFPA 2112, Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel against Flash Fire, was developed to address this hazard. Garments that meet the requirements of NFPA 2112 do not continue to burn or shrink, and generally protect a large portion of a worker’s body from short-term thermal exposure. NFPA 2112 is concurrently used with NFPA 2113, Standard on Selection, Care, Use, and Maintenance of Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel against Short-Duration Thermal Exposures; OSHA encourages the use of both standards. NFPA 2112 is currently completing a revision cycle to update the standard from the 2012 edition to the 2018...
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EMS Corner: Formula for a double trouble emergency

On May 27, 2017, 25-year old Rachel Daly collapsed during a soccer match as temperatures climbed into the 90s.  She was taken by ambulance to the hospital and treated for heat illness.  A 25-year old athlete with temperatures barely reaching into the 90’s, Rachel says this was a “frightening experience.”   Now consider that our workforce is middle aged, out of shape, some with a poor diet or night of drinking alcohol prior to starting a work shift and we have what I call Double Trouble.    Not only do heat emergencies cause hypovolemia (loss of fluid), but loss of blood chemistry (electrolytes).  Add a worker with just about any illness or significant aging and you have your recipe for potential disaster, yet we tend to treat heat related illness as if it is no big deal.   OSHA investigated 25 incidents of heat-related illness in 2005.  In almost half of...
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