In my brief but current tenure in the petroleum refining industry I’ve noticed a lot of differences yet a lot of similarities in regards to the dynamics of training. Unlike the structural firefighting realm, industrial firefighting can, arguably, contain a cache of significant hazards that are not otherwise encountered and contain an inherently more dangerous fireground. The hazards are a myriad of chemicals, off-gasses, high pressures, high temperatures, liquid and pressure-fed fires and constant chemical and physical reactions. Every fire scene is a hazmat scene. In industrial firefighting the factors are vastly more significant.
After spending the last fifteen years on the structural firefighting side, I took note of the type of training being conducted. A large portion of my job is training program development, management and instruction. With all things being equal, industrial firefighting has some of the best training in the world at TEEX (Texas A&M Extension Service). These courses are instructed by some of the best instructors in the industry and the world. Courses are attended by industrial firefighters from all over the world. Their programs and facilities are second to none and known the world over. However, I began thinking about other opportunities to be explored. Meanwhile, the traditional fire service has a myriad of programs and courses covering every facet of structural firefighting including the certification of instructors. My vision is to initiate the conversation in the development and implementation of an industrial live fire training course and subsequent industrial live fire instructor credentialing program by uniting industrial fire service leaders. The program would mirror that of the current live fire instructor credential that is offered by the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. The main focus would be to establish credibility in the industry and capitalize on the wealth of knowledge of instructors in the petroleum, oil and gas, chemical and refining industries. As with any quality, ever-evolving instructor, the importance of professional development that spans an entire career is necessary to bring validity and credibility from a complete body of work.
With the professionals of the society, depth of knowledge, passion of its members and experienced industrial fire leaders, the ISFSI can be the leader in industrial fire instructor credentialing. Beyond that, both structural and industrial fire services can bring added value to the community it serves. A lot of municipal fire organizations may respond, and be the primary responders, to an industrial facility within their jurisdiction. It is also an added value to those firefighters to gain the industrial knowledge and training to expand their mission and diversify their service deliveries.
Let’s look at bridging the gap and exploring the development and implementation of such programs and begin to build and forge relationships and partnerships with industry leaders that result in collaborative efforts to unite the municipal and industrial worlds while adding value to industrial fire instructors.