News & Media

Sugar Refinery Trains for Industrial Fire, HAZMAT and Chemical Related Emergency Response

Ever wondered how a factory or processing plant goes about handling an emergency such as a fire or chemical spill?

That was the focus of initial training recently begun at Imperial Sugar Company’s sugar refinery in Gramercy, Louisiana.

OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) requires organizations that potentially have to respond to emergencies involving hazardous materials adapt a nationally recognized incident command system or ISC.

“ICS is a systematic approach that uses a standardized and unified command structure to safely mitigate emergencies,” said Marc Holder, Training and Safety Manager and ICS trainer at the Gramercy plant. “There are basic levels of command, and each level of command has to be able to communicate with and understand what the other levels are doing.”

Key elements of an incident command system include:

  • Standard terminology
  • Modular organization
  • Pre-designated incident facility
  • Integrated communications
  • Unified command structure
  • Consolidated plan-of-action
  • Comprehensive resource management

Holder, who has been an instructor for 20 years, first trained each of the Gramercy shift superintendents in the role of incident commander.

The incident commander is responsible for overall management during an emergency. Specific duties include assessing the situation, establishing immediate priorities and determining objectives and strategies to be followed.

Next to be trained are those who will staff the emergency operations center (EOC), where operations, planning, logistics and administration of finances takes place.

Sydney Edmonston, also from Industrial Emergency Services, was contracted to help develop the emergency response team at Imperial. His role within the incident command system is operations section chief, fire and hazmat.

Edmonston explained how the EOC might interact with the incident commander during an actual emergency.

Consider, for example, a forklift that causes a chemical spill after running into large tanks of phosphoric acid or chlorine. The incident command team on site might ask the EOC for a bulldozer to build earthen walls to prevent further chemical leakage into a ditch that surrounds the plant.

The planning people on the EOC would give it to logistics. Logistics would report back on what it would take to get the bulldozer and how much it would cost. The finance people would determine how to pay for the bulldozer.

Long before an incident ever happens, the planning group would run through different what-if scenarios, such as a fire that damages vital equipment. The team would plan in advance how to get the equipment quickly repaired or replaced to ensure the plant is running again as soon as possible.

“The idea is to get everybody into a common mindset, so that when an emergency happens, everyone at Imperial Sugar will know who’s in what roles and what to do,” said Edmonston.

Emergencies are classified according to three levels of severity: minor, moderate or significant danger.

A chlorine cloud, which would impact communities outside the plant’s fence, activates a level-3 incident.

In that case, the plant has to notify state police.

The police will respond to observe and ensure public safety. They expect to know what the team is doing to mitigate the problem; whether it can be mitigated; how much chemical was spilled; and what has been done to keep it from contaminating the surroundings.

An incident command system makes it easier for multiple agencies and organizations to interact by establishing common roles in every emergency response team – whether used by a voluntary fire department, FEMA or a sugar refinery.

Reactions from those attending the first training classes at Imperial’s Gramercy refinery were positive.

Bruce Roussel, assitant shift superintendent, said: “The material was presented in a way that is easy to understand. Excellent training.”

“This is the first training I have had in becoming an incident commander,” said Earl Taylor, assistant shift superintendent,. “And it has been greatly beneficial.”

Brent Montz, shift superintendent, said he “never realized how much outside governmental help was available to the plant to call upon in times of an emergency.”

“This training program has helped me understand my role as an incident commander,” said Timmy Melancon, shift superintendent. “ I could never have jumped into this position untrained.”

The incident command system is a key feature of the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Spurred by 9-11 and California wildfires, NIMS provides a standard way for multiple agencies to communicate with each other in an emergency of national significance.

This article was originally posted in ISC


Comments are closed.