Ready to Respond
June 18, 2020
When your place of employment contains an 18-story, 1,000-degree furnace, steam shooting through pipes at 3,500 pounds per square inch, and enough kinetic energy to generate more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, the ability to swiftly and confidently react to emergencies is crucial.
Responding to fires, safety incidents and other emergencies at Fort Martin is the duty of the power plant’s emergency crews. Members of this volunteer employee group now have a new response facility, freshly stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, known in the emergency industry as bunker gear.
“Our bunker gear was getting outdated,” said Jeff Hulton, Fort Martin Process supervisor who leads emergency response at the facility. “Our group members evaluated options and chose what we thought would perform best for us.”
The choice included a switch from traditional firefighter helmets to new style, fully enclosed headgear.
“One of our team members is a volunteer firefighter with a local department that uses the new helmets,” Jeff noted. “They’re more protective than the traditional headwear.”
In addition to the equipment, a new storage facility was built adjacent to the plant assembly building.
“The new facility has a lot of space and it’s well-lit. It’s separated from the plant proper, which eliminates the possibility of it being hard to reach in the event of an in-plant incident,” Jeff said.
Emergency response at both FirstEnergy fossil generation plants – Fort Martin and Harrison – is divided into two teams: Loss Prevention for fire suppression and Confined Space Rescue. At Fort Martin, all new employees receive fire suppression training through a three-day course conducted by the West Virginia Fire Training Academy. Those who volunteer for confined space rescue require an additional full week of specialized training with 40 hours of instruction and practical experience. Members of both teams then receive annual refresher training. Fort Martin has approximately 45 individuals divided among five loss control teams – with one squad always on shift.
“It’s a full plant effort,” Jeff noted. “We have men and women from the Bulk Material group, Production, Maintenance, and Engineering on the loss control teams.”
Thirty-five individuals are trained in confined space rescue, which also includes specialties such as rescue from heights. The setup is similar at Harrison. Every year, members of local volunteer fire departments visit the generation plants to maintain a close relationship with our emergency teams.
“We walk the local firefighters through the plant to familiarize them with the layout, and to point out critical systems or areas that could present issues in an emergency,” said Ed Murphy, manager, Technical Services, at Harrison. “We’re fortunate to have three volunteer fire departments close to the plant. Our teams are trained to respond to fires in their early stage, prior to the arrival of the local departments.”
Fort Martin has just two volunteer fire departments located nearby. As a result, the plant’s loss control team members are more highly trained.
“The company has backed us every step of the way. They’ve ensured we have everything our emergency response teams need,” said Jeff.
Ed, who’s the management representative for Harrison’s emergency response teams, added: “The commitment to safety and health is very real. There’s never been any hesitation when it comes to upgrading equipment or training.”