Friday, November 11, 2016

Local fire brigade nervous that refinery is restarting...

The relationship between aluminium plants and local emergency management services cannot be understated. Some of our larger plants have employ their own fire departments on their property. But, even those plants have had incidents that required outside assistance. Regardless of your plant size you must develop a working relationship with your local emergency management system. Here is a recent story;

Staff at the Mandeville Fire Station are foreseeing risks for residents as amid further resource constraints, stakeholders prepare for the reopening of the Alpart aluminium plant in Nain, St Elizabeth, Jamaica.

The Alpart plant is expected to resume refining operations in the 2016-2017 financial year, as was disclosed by Minister of Transport and Mining Mike Henry during his contribution to the 2016 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 8.

Following the refinery's closure in 2009, the plant was reopened on a reduced production schedule in 2010.

The acting deputy superintendent for the Manchester division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, indicated that while serving the parishes of St Elizabeth, Clarendon,

St Ann, Trelawny, and Manchester, the fire service encounters severe constraints daily. He noted that urgency was needed to improve the quality of resources available.

"Currently, with what exists, we are seriously challenged. The parish of Manchester is so geographically divided that travel time from Mandeville town centre to the farthest points is seriously impacted. The Alpart plant falls between us and the Junction fire station. Even though it is in St Elizabeth, we cover borders," he said as he addressed journalists during a Gleaner Jobs and Growth Forum that was held recently at the Mandeville Hotel.

"We are fortunate to have for the past three months, two working pumpers, and we are going through a restructuring process in the service. However, Manchester needs at least two more fire stations. We need a fire station out at Newport (Manchester) and we need one in the Mile Gully (Manchester) area to adequately cover the Manchester area and to serve its environs," he continued.

The superintendent further stated that "now with all of these plans and the infrastructural development, in addition to the influx of people, lives will be at risk. We are talking about the roadways becoming more congested, possibility of more motor vehicle accidents and Alpart itself bringing a whole new dimension."

The acting deputy superintendent stressed that access to water, in addition to several other facilities, was needed to get the station to a satisfactory level.

"We are first responders to anything and all of these things, with the limited resources, will be seriously challenged. We ourselves are seriously challenged from the point of workspace. In service training, we don't have the space. Advanced life support services for our staff are things that are needed," he declared.

"Access to water is very serious. You will pass a lot of fire hydrants, but there is no water in them because the water system is not favourable. We would love for a water tank to be placed specifically at the Mandeville station. When we respond to incidents, we just go to cool down because these persons would have lost everything by the time we got there. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to get to some locations."

This plant was recently sold. We hope and pray that the concerns of the local fire brigade are made to the new owners and a meeting can be arranged on how both parties can work together.

We acknowledge that the current equipment list of the fire brigades may be sufficient for residential areas, but may be lacking when the refinery is at full production. These issues of local fire department concerns is not new. The Aluminium Plant Safety Blog has posted stories similar in the past. The challenge for local governments who want the investment and the jobs that come with it is how best to protect their residential areas while providing assistance to industry. It is a balance that requires both parties (e.g., local government, aluminium plant) to work together. If they do not, a simple incident can easily become a catastrophe. We pray that does not happen at this plant.

The Aluminium Times Magazine had an article about how some aluminium companies that work together with local emergency management services in training and support to make their plants and local communities safer.

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