Phillips 66 used their corporate fire school in May as an opportunity to test a new electronic accountability system designed to track emergency responders taking advantage of medical surveillance technology already in place.
Nearly 150 emergency responders simultaneously dispatched to address multiple live-fire projects at Brayton Fire Training Field were independently tracked as each training scenario evolved, said Stephen Pepper, Phillips 66 director of crisis management HSE compliance and services.
“As different problems arise out on the field the firefighters are dispatched from staging as needed,” Pepper said. “Each firefighter has a badge that is scanned as they get dispatched.”
That badge scan is repeated as the responders are routinely checked by health personnel for signs of heat and stress. The information about each responder’s location and health is immediately relayed to incident command headquarters.
“It’s important to know where your people are,” Pepper said. “If you get into a large, complex incident you need to be able to know where your people are, what they’re doing, if they’re active in a hot zone or out being rehabbed and how long they will be out of action.”
To add an extra degree of realism to the test, the live-fire training projects were burned at night.
The accountability system is an outgrowth of a medical surveillance system highlighted in the Fall 2018 issue of Industrial Fire World (“Managing Stress: Phillips 66 tracks firefighters’ cardiac health”). The term “medical surveillance” usually refers to analysis of health information to uncover problems in the workplace.
In 2012, Pepper asked Timothy Raycob, Phillips 66 director of compliance for medical surveillance, to expand the accepted definition of that surveillance as monitoring personnel exposure to hazardous materials to include hazards common to industrial firefighting – heat and stress.
“He asked us to develop a medical rehab and monitoring program for his crisis management schools, which include the corporate fire and rescue school,” Raycob said.
National Fire Protection Association Standard 1584 requires that any firefighter who uses two standard SCBA air tanks or one extended air tank must come out of the “hot zone” to rest or “rehab,” regardless of how good they might feel. Health personnel known as “rehab officers” take that opportunity to check the responder’s vital signs for signs of a potential cardiac event.
Now rehab officers are also responsible for scanning the barcode on each responder’s badge, adding location to the health parameters being monitored.
Using a wifi connection, that information is relayed to an incident command trailer that could easily be mistaken for a lunch wagon when not deployed. However, roll up the side windows and inside are large-screen television displays that give the incident commander the status of each responder on the field.
The command post vehicle has been present at the Phillips 66 corporate fire schools for the last three years, Pepper said.
“Our resource manager, working together with the staging area officer, will understand what problems are going on, how many people are needed at each problem, how to move responders to each problem, if the responders are being rehabbed and how to move them back to staging to be ready to deploy again,” Pepper said.
The command vehicle is permanently stationed at corporate headquarters and can be deployed to any Phillips 66 facility within six hours. Once on site, it can further transmit critical information back to the company’s emergency operations command in Houston.
“The response group developed the software probably 20 years ago,” Pepper said. “It has been going through different upgrades. Now, with electronic accountability, we have a resource management tool that can tie everything together into one incident action plan.”
Many Phillips 66 refineries have similar field command posts already on site as well, Pepper said.
At the height of the night burn, one entire row of live-fire projects is burning, including three multi-level props – Project 34, the chemical complex; Project 32, the pipe rack, and Project 31, the process complex fire. In each case, responders must extinguish ground level fires before climbing the stairs to tackle upper level flames.
But three simultaneous fires at night is not enough to satisfy Pepper. Late in the exercise, a fourth prop, Project 43, the aerial cooler, suddenly ignites. The responders who have returned to staging are again deployed, this time to a burning prop on the opposite side of the field.
Even with the fires out, the accountability system continues to track the responders.
“If responders don’t show up when listed as ‘in route to staging,’ we know to go look for them,” Pepper said. “We’ve tested it that way as well.”
Phillips 66 invested in the new field command trailer after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Pepper said.
“It was a widespread disaster at our industrial facilities,” he said. “We had damage from Corpus Christi all the way to Lake Charles. We had many different facilities with different problems managing different responses.”
Thankfully, the field command post has only been used for training to date, he said.