Coordination Between First Responders and Business Pays Off in Chemical Fire at Refinery

A fire last week at the Calumet oil refinery in Superior, Wisconsin had a positive safety outcome thanks to close coordination between the facility’s EHS staff and local first responders from the Superior Fire Department.

The fire broke out in a 30-foot-high 4,000 barrel asphalt storage tank, and was caused by an explosion that probably arose from smoldering material inside. According to eyewitnesses, the explosion “split the roof of the tank.”  By working together and coordinating their efforts, first responders and refinery safety professionals were able to quickly extinguish the blaze and avoid injuries.

Officials credited collaboration prior to the incident with positioning their teams for success.

“Our firefighters, their team members at the refinery — they work together on a monthly basis,” said Superior Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Gordon in a statement to the Superior Telegram. “Our management staff and the upper management at the refinery — we work together on a regular basis.”

The fire was extinguished with a dry-chemical fire suppression agent composed of potassium bicarbonate and other chemicals, known as Purple-K, which the refinery’s safety staff kept on site. The Superior Fire Department was able to use their ladders to introduce the suppression agent to the blaze at an elevated height. According to reports, two responders climbed the ladders and applied the agent. The tank was also sprayed with water. No injuries occurred, and a source confirmed that there was no air quality hazard posed to the local community.

Investigation of the exact cause of the smoldering which led to the fire is ongoing. The tank will be disassembled and analyzed in the days ahead.

This positive outcome stemming from a coordinated response underscores the benefits of connecting first responders to information about the onsite chemicals they may face when responding to a call.

For many chemical facilities, connecting with first responders is not just a good idea, it’s a legal obligation. The EPA, OSHA, and the Department of Homeland Security all have regulations covering certain industries and facilities with large quantities of hazardous chemicals. Executive Order 13650 has recently put even more pressure on chemical facilities and the agencies that regulate them to ensure chemical hazard information is communicated to first responders in a timely fashion. Learn more via our upcoming webinar on EO 13650 – click here to register.

MSDSonline’s Plan1 First Responder Share service is a great example of a new technology enabling these connections to occur easily and effectively. Plan1 gives companies and efficient and simple way to provide emergency response teams with quick access to hazardous chemical inventory information before they arrive at the scene of a fireground emergency. Developed collaboratively through conversations and surveys involving current MSDSonline customers and the first responder community, Plan1 helps to close the loop on emergency response planning and preparedness by providing improved communication and access to critical chemical safety information delivered in the ways first responders need it most.

Users can easily share their SDS information, indexed product summaries, facility floor plans, and chemical container inventories and maps. Plan1 then automatically emails first responders a link to this potentially lifesaving information. Plan1 is provided at no cost to all MSDSonline HQ and HQ RegXR customers, and costs first responders nothing to access the chemical information provided.

For more information about what Plan1 can do for your business, visit the Plan1 webpage here.