Any modern corporation is organized into groups that govern the various aspects of the business – maintenance, process technology, etc. At Chevron, best practices with regard to fire protection is the responsibility of the corporate fire school staff, said Ricky Conerly, fire chief at Chevron’s Pascagoula, MS refinery.
“We try to bring the different facilities together to better coordinate fire protection training corporate-wide,” he said. “The corporate philosophy has always been that we share all the best in techniques, strategy and tactics.”
Conerly serves as liaison between the fire school staff and Chevron’s Fire Chiefs Network, representing fire chiefs throughout the corporation. In May, the fire chiefs conducted a four-day conference at Brayton Fire Training Field in Texas in coordination with the third and final session of the fire school scheduled for 2019.
“I represent the interests of the chiefs’ network in oversight of the school, helping facilitate decisions that the staff may need from a higher level of management,” Conerly said.
Ten chiefs from Chevron’s operations in Pascagoula; El Segundo and Richmond in California; Perth Amboy, NJ; Old Ocean, TX; Salt Lake City, UT, Russia, Angola, Nigeria and Singapore were expected to attend the network meeting.
“We just acquired the refinery in Pasadena, TX from Petroleo Brasilerio on May 1, but I don’t know if they will be there,” Conerly said.
Topics of discussion will include transitions in firefighting foam and cutting edge technological advances, he said.
“We’ve got some vendors coming in with different updates to make sure we’re still in tune with what’s going on in firefighting,” Conerly said. “We might see something highly advantageous in the event that we need to make a change.”
The chiefs connect throughout the year via a monthly conference call to discuss these same matters, he said. But the annual face time that the network meeting provides is invaluable in building the relationships that are critical in an emergency.
“We have one day set aside just to discuss topics of concern such as the permitting we deal with at all our facilities,” Conerly said.
Creation of a corporate emergency task force to consult on incident command in any catastrophic event reported by a Chevron facility was also an important topic of discussion.
“It means standing shoulder to shoulder, sharing our expertise to help each other make good decisions that may be highly advantageous in managing the event,” he said.
As for the fire school, nearly 40 students attended. However, bad weather over the Gulf Coast states caused travel delays that cancelled much of the opening day’s live-burn schedule.
“The bulk of them still aren’t here,” Conerly said on the four day school’s first day. “Some that are didn’t get in until early morning. So, from a safety aspect, we didn’t feel like it was the right thing to bring them out here after such a short turnaround.”
Conerly made his first trip to Brayton in 1986 and has logged more than 60 visits since then. He refers to the training field at Texas A&M University as “the national response training facility.”
“I find it very beneficial to the core development of our individual ERT members,” Conerly said. “It’s a value added experience for them to come here and get this exposure.”
Chevron dollars continue to be well spent at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service affiliated facility, he said.
“I make sure that they get the best training available in the world,” Conerly said. “It’s one thing that allows us to instill our core safety values and continue being injury and incident free.”
The foundation of that training is the Chevron corporate school staff led by Pascagoula ERT assistant chief Tonnie Hopson, Conerly said.
“Tonnie is commander of the fire school. He’s very charismatic and accommodating to people. He’s out for the best interest of the school and does a great job facilitating that. I’m really proud of him."