Fire protection to ports and terminals



Neil Primrose of Cooper Fulleon on behalf of FIA UK


Fire can become one of the most destructive and unforgiving forces known to man, destroying everything in its path. With this in mind we try to add some perspective on the prevention, detection and extinguishing of fires within ports and terminals as well as vessels.

The key areas are those of education first and foremost, closely followed by understanding risks and threats and then the implementation of passive and active fire protection, as well as notification.

Understanding your surroundings, storage, operating areas and contents are the first steps to reducing the risks of fire. It is advisable to get advice from specialists who can establish the layers of identification before you start to design out the threat of fire.

The layers of identification can be multiple and multi faceted. Starting with a footprint of the facility and understanding if you need to protect the property, people or products first. This will guide you towards the first layer of prevention required.

Together with this understanding, you also need to be a little creative with your approach and aim to apply notification on each layer. Without notification, whether through visual indication or audible alerts, you will lose a possibly critical chance to stop a fire. The basic layers can be applied as follows:

Facility foot print

This should be a grid-referenced map of the land showing only the transportation routes and location of buildings. You will need to define access routes for emergency vehicles and first responders, locate muster stations and/or safe areas also making sure you input visual notification for such routes and areas.

In addition to this you can indicate where industrial firefighting equipment, storage tanks, fuel tanks, hazardous materials and emergency medical equipment are located. While doing this, also consider moving these items, if necessary to better locations. Ideally you don’t want fuel tanks, for example, next to a building
used for industrial welding.

Building foot print

Understanding what each building is primarily used for is the next step. List your buildings and their contents together with the impact a fire could have on each. This will enable you to know what visual notification you need for personnel about to enter the building i.e. “this building contains highly flammable liquids, no smoking or naked flames!” You can also install boards outside that are capable of being updated as the contents of the building are changed. This gives great information for the emergency services when attending a possible fire.

Also this layer will allow you to look at whether you need passive fire suppression or active fire detection in the building. Similarly, when identifying a building that is mainly occupied by staff or the public you need to ensure that your list identifies the need for a fire detection system designed to your national and local fire regulations and in accordance with your local Fire Department.

Operational foot print

The next layer should consider the operational side of the port or terminal and the personnel/public likely to be present. Notification is the most important aspect at this level. This can create the difference between a close call and catastrophe. For your staff – training and observation is essential.

For the public – audible and visual notification is key. Designing these into your facility is essential, and looking at all possibilities should always lie in the hands of a specialist. Ensuring the safety of all is paramount and getting this wrong is unthinkable. You will again need to look at the design of fire detection systems, sprinkler systems and fire suppression systems, as well as the possibility of mass notification.

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