In any emergency, the actions taken in the first seconds of response are critical. Especially in the oil and gas industry, where fires can quickly consume entire facilities, it’s essential that your facility has a plan for response.

What is an Emergency Response Plan for an Oil & Gas Facility?

An emergency response plan is your oil and gas facility’s established plan for what will happen in the event that there is any kind of emergency in your facility. An oil & gas emergency response plan should take into account all of the potential hazards present in the facility, and define exactly how the facility will respond to each. This emergency response plan should account for any hazard that could affect your facility, from fire-related hazards to emergencies caused by severe weather.

Depending on what your facility does, and where, you may have to submit this plan to a number of federal regulatory agencies.

How to Ensure The Effectiveness of Your Oil & Gas Facility’s Emergency Response Plan Against a Fire Emergency

Any oil & gas facility in operation today must have an existing emergency response plan. In most locations, federal regulatory agencies require you submit this plan before your facility is allowed to operate. One of the most important steps of submitting an emergency response plan is ensuring that yours is updated and tested to verify that it is useful in keeping your people and your products safe.

If your facility has made any changes recently, or if it’s been some time since anyone verified your facility’s existing emergency response plan, here are 5 steps to ensure your emergency response plan will actually protect your facility in the event of a fire.

Step 1: Review Your Oil & Gas Facility’s Emergency Response Plan

Your facility should already have an emergency response plan in place. If you are establishing a presence at a new facility, developing this emergency response plan should be one of your top priorities. Once it’s created, review the emergency response plan, and make sure every employee and operator in your facility has thoroughly read and understands it as well.

Simply reading an older emergency response plan can highlight discrepancies in your facility’s protection equipment. If you notice any errors in your emergency response plan — especially those regarding the types of fire protection systems — update the emergency response plan and redistribute it to the rest of the facility as soon as possible.

Step 2: Evaluate Resources Based on your Facility’s Worst-Case Scenario

Once you understand your oil and gas facility’s emergency response plan, it’s important to evaluate your available resources based on the worst-case scenarios outlined in the plan.

For example, based on NFPA minimum guidelines, do you have adequate amounts of firefighting foam and water supply to effectively suppress or contain a worst-case scenario fire in your facility?

Do you have enough pumps, hoses, and delivery devices to complete the emergency response plan as outlined?

If your oil and gas facility relies on mutual aid resources, have those resources been included in your trainings? Have you diagramed your tank layout so a mutual aid resource knows exactly how and where to respond in the event of a fire?

No one likes to consider the worst-case scenario. But taking the time to evaluate the resources you’re supposed to have against what your facility actually has can mean the difference between safety and a severe facility fire.

Step 3: Evaluate Equipment

It’s one thing to have an emergency response plan. It’s another to ensure that plan actually works in a real-life situation.

To ensure your emergency response plan would be effective in the event of a fire, evaluate your equipment with a training scenario.

Set up a training event that utilizes all of your emergency response and fire suppression equipment. As you run through the scenario, assess:

  • Do you have enough pumps and pumping capacity?
  • Is your foam delivery equipment functional and sufficient?
  • Are all of your delivery devices connected with compatible adapters?
  • Do portable and fixed monitors, cannons, and guns cover the area adequately?

As your facility grows and changes, you’re often upgrading your oil and gas facility’s fire suppression system as needed. When that happens, small things like adapters are easy to forget. But, when a fire happens, and your hoses are too small to hook up to your foam tank, that can have a catastrophic impact on your facility’s ability to respond to an emergency.

Step 4: Train As If It Were a Real Incident

As you complete training scenarios, make sure you’re training as if there was a real fire in your oil and gas facility.

That means inviting your neighbors, and any mutual aid partners.

Completing training with all responsible parties means that everyone is on the same page in the event of an emergency. When everyone has completed the same training at your facility, everyone will know exactly what’s expected of each party to successfully evacuate the facility and suppress the fire.

Work to make your training as realistic as possible. The better your team’s training, the more effective their emergency response will be in the event of a real hazard.

Step 5: Schedule Ongoing Training To Keep Everyone Safe

Don’t stop after just one training scenario.

Your emergency response plan should be evaluated and practiced often. Not only does regular fire protection training ensure that everyone clearly understands their responsibilities, but it also guarantees that everyone has training.

In any facility, people leave, new people start, and your mutual aid support likely experiences turnover as well. Regular training solidifies your emergency response plan in the minds of every participant and ensures that even new hires have the training they need to stay safe in the event of a fire.

Ongoing training can also help identify any changes in your oil and gas fire protection system or any discrepancies between what’s written in your emergency response plan, and what equipment actually functions in your facility.

Your oil and gas facility’s emergency response plan is essential to the safety of your facility and your team. It’s important to read, evaluate, and test your emergency response plan often, so you know it works, and so your team knows how to protect themselves in the event of a fire.

Fires are one of the most devastating hazards for any oil and gas facility. Without an emergency response plan, and without proper training, your facility is at great risk. If it’s been some time since your facility evaluated your emergency response plan or ran a training scenario, the Vanguard team is here to help.

Our oil & gas facility training specialist, Randy Jones, has responded to over 1,000 industrial fires, spills, and explosions. In addition to this, he trains firefighters and facilities like yours to effectively suppress or contain industrial fires. Schedule a consultation with Randy to see how you can improve your emergency response plan and keep your team safe.

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