What makes you special as an industrial fire and emergency responder? You wear multiple hats. You may be a volunteer brigade member or a paid FD/ERT member. You likely volunteer in your local fire department. You are an unofficial or official ambassador for your company and people ask you lots of questions about how you meet the challenges of your work.

Most of all, what I believe makes you special is that you are always preparing for the unexpected. Most people do their work to achieve specific goals that they can check off reaching. Most of the other people in your refinery or plant know their production output. Your outcome is their safety and the reduction of risks and losses when the unexpected happens.

Over the past 30 plus years I’ve responded to or analyzed many industrial incidents. No one planned for any of them to happen as a company goal, yet the emergency responders planned for “if they happened.” The crazy thing about your job today is that you are responsible for “paper” or “electronic” plans you can grab and follow, knowing you must have the thinking skills to size up the situation and take the planned or unplanned course of action that will be safest for employees, community residents and businesses who may be impacted, the environment, and your response team as well as the facility.

 How do you prepare yourself for these challenges? Our mission for the past 30 years has been to make you aware of what has happened in incidents and the thinking and action applied by the responders and their management as well lessons learned. Our book, Disasters Man-Made was published to capture some of the major events that impacted policy affecting practices required today. It’s as critical to know “why” a course of action was or was not taken as well as to know what course to take.

Stories in this issue highlight how in spite of all of the information you are required to gather and share during emergency events, surprises beyond your control will likely emerge and you have to keep the rule, “If you don’t know, don’t go” as your guide.

When I think about the books or electronic files of emergency response plans you must keep current and use frequently in training exercises and incidents, I see the challenge of keeping focused on the mission ... keep all of the paper work required current, completed as each event unfolds, evaluated after the report … or is the mission to be so engrained in your SOGs that your responders can perform efficiently yet be able to adapt when the situation doesn’t fit the plan.

Keeping your ERT ready isn’t enough either. How do you prepare mutual responders and community partners who may be monitoring releases that go into the community, handling emergency injuries that arrive at hospitals, providing backup equipment and manpower when needed?

You are special. You are not just juggling a lot of responsibilities. You are building teams that are ready to assist you, each member of the team trained and prepared to play their role with success so the ERT and your facility come out winners when challenged.

Remember, IFW is your information team member. If it would be helpful to share copies of the magazine with all of your team members there are two options. Send a message to [email protected] to be notified when a new issue is posted to our web site. You can forward her notice to your team members with your personal message. Use stories as a point of discussion in a future planning meeting. If you prefer to scan specific stories and send them to your team members, please copy Kendra on your message to help us track how the magazine is being used. Most of all, if there are topics or questions we could focus on in future issues that address challenges you and your team are facing, send them to anton@fireworld. com, and copy [email protected]. Yes, you can copy me. They just make sure it doesn’t get lost in my e-mail. The mission of the IFW team is to keep you informed on topics that will help make your job safer.