Monday, April 26, 2021

Reader Comment – Intrinsically Safe

Long-time reader and my goto person for MTSA issues, Laurie Thomas, left a comment on today’s blog post about the introduction of HR 1539. She reminds us to be careful in the language we are using when talking with local law enforcement personnel:

“Start with this issue and move further down the continuum of facilities whose response community only loosely understands the physical constraints of response to that facility. Facility: "In that part of the plant, everything needs to be intrinsically safe". Law Enforcement: "What does 'intrinsically safe' mean?"”

I remember a conversation I had a number of years back with a police lieutenant who was responsible for immediate response at a refinery in California. I asked him if the refinery personnel had talked to him about the ‘classified areas’ at the plant. His response was that his people did not have security clearances.

I took a deep breath and then asked him if they had told him what areas of the facility that he could expect to encounter a flammable atmosphere. And got a blank look in return. Then I explained to him how leaks, spills, pressure relief valves and just opening containers could result in flammable chemicals in the air that could be ignited by sparks, electric discharges or other flame sources. A look of understanding crossed his face while he explained that a family member working at the refinery had been killed in a fire when the company vehicle she was driving entered just such an area and acted as an ignition source.

Then I asked him if he understood that the muzzle flash from his weapons could ignite a flammable atmosphere. He left mumbling something about talking to his superiors about not responding to an active shooter incident at the refinery…..

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