Foam is applied to the burning bulk storage unit prop. - Photos by Anton Riecher

Foam is applied to the burning bulk storage unit prop.

Photos by Anton Riecher

Boiled down to essentials, the key lesson taught at the semi-annual BP fire school conducted in College Station, TX, can be defined in two words, said BP global response advisor Randal S. Fletcher.

“Mitigate risk,” he said.

Seventy-two firefighters from the United States, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago and Azerbaijan gathered at Texas A&M University’s Texas Engineering Extension Service fire field in May for the BP’s first 2013 fire school. “We typically draw a broad international base of students from our BP assets globally, each class is unique in the mix of students,” he said.

Fletcher provides guidance on crisis management and incident response capabilities for BP International Ltd. He also provides response expertise and advice during incidents. Fletcher manages BP’s regional response teams, ensuring effective response training.

“We want to put BP in a strong position to respond effectively when an incident occurs,” he said.

 “We train our firefighters to think,” Fletcher said. “Well trained firefighters are capable of reading the fire, matching the conditions to the equipment and techniques necessary, to respond in a safe way to reduce the size and intensity of the problem. You’ve got to bring that together to be effective.”

Firefighters move in to close valves. -

Firefighters move in to close valves.

Using the variety of industrial fire props available at TEEX’s Brayton Fire Training Field, BP brings in its own instructors to provide the training. Firefighters spend the mornings in the classrooms and then move outdoors to put their lessons to practical use on the fire field, Fletcher said.

“Our goal is to create a realistic training experience,” Fletcher said. That requires the students to combine knowledge and skills to solve the fire response problems.

“The next day we take it to another level,” he said. “When we put the firefighters on the field in the afternoon we expect them to apply the first day’s classroom training as well as the second day. The idea is to build on their skill set.”

The five-day fire school concludes with a written exam and a performance test, Fletcher said.

“The written exam captures the knowledge,” he said. “The performance test combines knowledge and skill, to prove they truly can perform to the competency expectations developed throughout the week.  We hope to produce competent front line responders.”

 “Fire fighting is a competency that must be understood and executed well,” he said. “This is not a low risk activity. It is a managed risk activity.”