India averages a national growth rate of seven percent annually, making it one of the fastest growing industrial producers in the world. As in any economy, the side effect of a prosperous nation is the need for more emergency response personnel, including industrial firefighters.
The Institute of Fire Safety & Disaster Management Studies, located near the industrial city of Vadodara, Gujarat in Western India, is a fire school that concentrates on industrial fire fighting, said IFSDMS spokesman Dharmendra Wakharikar.
“Some of the largest refining, marketing installations and petrochemical facilities are in India,” he said. “Industry leaders and our governments have identified the need for professionally training responders who could manage the incident that could occur at these facilities.”
Established by Checkmate Services Pvt. Ltd. in 1998, IFSDMS is a state-of-the-art fire training facility spread across 100 acres that includes props designed to simulate emergencies involving hazardous materials, high angle and confined space rescue, rescue and extrication, using the latest equipment and standards.
In March 2012, Mr.Narendra Modi, Honorable Chief Minister of Gujarat State, inaugurated IFSDMS’s latest fire training facility expansion, dedicating it to the nation. Developed in collaboration with the University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy, the expansion included a series of full-scale industrial mockups used for live-fire simulations.
“We considered what types of props are needed to support the lessons being taught in the classroom,” Wakharikar said.
The list of props available includes a tri-level process unit, multi flange valve prop, oil storage tank, truck loading gantry, railroad loading gantry, pipe trench, open trench, control room (MCC), cable duct, high angle tower and confined spaces.
“Live-fire props are constructed to industry safety standards or greater,” Wakharikar said. “Fuel systems are constructed with multiple control valves to be sure the fuel is where it needs to be and nowhere else.”
The fire ground also has redundant firewater pumps, backup water tender and an ambulance. Staff is trained to recognize hazards and take actions to eliminate them, Wakharikar said.
“The fuel system is plumbed for a high degree of control as is the prop cooling water system,” he said. “This allows us to create scenarios with multiple flame points and on different levels of the prop, producing three-dimensional problems.”
Also included at IFSDMS are four combination multimedia classrooms and conference facilities, showers, locker rooms and lodging facilities for 40 students. There is also a computer lab for firefighter use, with plans to include virtual fire training in the future.
Few fire schools operate in India, Wakharikar said. IFSDMS is the only one to offer courses beyond basic fire training. Checkmate Services began as a provider of security services to plants and refineries throughout the country.
“It found that there is a lack of trained personnel that are industry specific and subject specific in the areas of fire and safety,” Wakharikar said.
This encouraged the Checkmate group to develop an international fire and safety training institute in order to provide the highest quality of training in the fields of fire fighting, crisis management, rescue and hazardous materials for Indian as well as global clientele, allowing them to be leaders in the life-safety field, he said.
The Indian state of Gujarat where IFSDMS is located is known as India’s petro capital, home to 30 percent of the country’s petrochemical industry and 50 percent of the country’s chemical and pharmaceuticals industry.
“We visited the local installations to learn what types of props they would like and found ones that were similar,” Wakharikar said. “We also considered what types of props are needed to support the lessons being taught in the classroom”
IFSDMS is approved to burn liquid hydrocarbon fuels, primarily diesel with a small amount of hexane. This produces the hot, smoky fires one would see in an industrial emergency, Wakharikar said.
“We are also allowed to burn propane and are planning to add this to our facility in late 2013 or early 2014,” he said. “This will provide responders experience with gas plant type of fire.”
At this time, IFSDMS is using standard AFFF foam in its live-fire exercises, the same as would be used in actual plants and refineries. The school includes a 1,000 cubic meter waste water treatment plant that separates oil and water, making it a zero discharge facility.
“The wastewater treatment plant is designed to meet stringent guidelines laid down by the local statutory body,” Wakharikar said. “It is effective in treating and reusing the water used in the burn exercises.”
Students visiting IFSDMS have the option to rent personal protective equipment and breathing apparatus or bring their own from their plant. If the company involved prefers to conduct its own training rather than use IFSDMS’ certified instructors, the training props and other facilities are available for rent.
IFSDMS is 93 miles (150 km) from the nearest international airport in Ahmedabad. For students who chose not to lodge on campus, the nearest food and lodging available is 27 miles (45 km) away in Vadodara. Charter transport between IFSDMS and Vadodara is available.
Since the Fire Science Academy closed in 2011, the biggest challenge for IFSDMS has been recruiting international experts to support the school’s advance training courses Wakharikar said.
“Fortunately, we met David White with Fire & Safety Specialists, Inc., who has provided valuable assistance in course and instructor resources,” he said. “It put us in a position with our operation and personnel to move ahead.”