By Benjamin Opia
Design: The most important thing in a tank farm is first of all the design. The tanks have to be designed to a specific standard and that specific standard must meet the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) regulations, downstream and upstream.
Booster pump: After the design of the farm, you must have a booster pump that has the capacity of discharging up to 466gpm (Gallon Per Minute) with a jet roll of 66 metres. Jet roll is the water coming out from the fixed monitors. When you have the pump connected to the water tanks. The pumps are always automatic. You just put on your pump and water will pass through the whole hydrant systems. You can connect to any closer place you know there is fire. The hydrants are fixed installations – single-head, standpipe; double-headed, standpipe. That is hydrant pipe. You have all of those ones in place. Then have sufficient sub suction hose. Then again you ensure to have mobile foam unit. Those mobile foam units can be moved from place to place. It contains foam tank. You can connect to any nearby hydrant. Those ones too will discharge foam compound aerated with water, because water will pass through from the hydrant to the foam tank, to the mobile foam unit, and then aerate to the scene of fire.
Fixed monitors: You should have fixed monitors directed to the gantry, because some of our fire outbreaks do happen from the loading gantry. So you have the monitors mounted just like pointing a gun facing your enemies. As the trucks are loading, firemen are on standby observing what is happening in case of anything. You just make a signal to the pump man who will just put on the pump and then every other person can join in fighting fire.
Foam concentrate: Then you make sure you have sufficient foam concentrate, like Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Concentrates (AFFF). Have that as well as sub suction hose in place, and if you have any means to have water supply from the lagoon, which would be of the best site. Although lagoon water is salty, it does not disturb our operations. It mixes with foam compound, when we want to fight fire, particularly in the ports. NPA fire service is so efficient in the sense that they have sufficient water. If the water from the fire truck, fire plant, or fire engine is exhausted, they could immediately submerge with hard suction to the open water, which is the lagoon. It is unlike fire-fighting in an industrial or residential area. If you are unable to provide sufficient water in a residential area, the firemen would be stoned. But the people don’t know what the problem is. The problem is the government’s lack of commitment to provide hydrant. In those days when the British were still here, there were hydrants all over some places. If you go to Lagos Island, you’ll see something like letter “H” on the ground. That’s hydrant, but water rarely comes to that place now. Those things were put in place but they are not functioning.
Signage: For the tank farm, you need to put signage in place to warn people, for example warning signs to tell people ‘no smoking’, ‘no cell phone’, ‘no siphoning of products’. Those truck drivers are very funny. By the time you are loading, they’d have connected their hose to the service tank. While you’re loading, some are entering into their tank, which those boys scoop on the way. When you see they stopping on the way to sell products, it’s from that source. So we observe them and we don’t permit such practice in our depot, particularly Ibafon Oil which I work for.
Most of those important facilities ought to put in place suction hoses, foam concentrate, and on daily basis ensure they are all in place and they are in good working conditions. Once you have that in place, the only one is to start monitoring everybody’s activities. Before the start of the job, you give toolbox talks, dos and don’ts, and safe method of working. These are some other actions that you need to put in place to ensure that your work is safe.
Scheduled service: Engine room, pump out must have a schedule of service so that they don’t malfunction. If electrical parts, cables are bad, these can cause spark when they come in contact with water. Make sure to service them. The kind of cables must also be of the right standard. Armoured cables are always required.
Foam pourers: You must install foam pourers on top of the tank farm. And sprinklers. Their functions are to cool down the tanks. And in case of fire, the foam pourers will cut off oxygen from the tank.
Monitoring: Monitoring is important. If any passer-by visits us, we make sure to follow him closely to check his activities. This is because saboteurs and arsonists can come in and commit anything. Monitoring is one of our rules whenever we’re operating. We monitor everyone’s activities to see how the work is being done. If you are not doing the work safely, we ask you to stop immediately. Enforcement by the safety personnel is very necessary.
Good housekeeping: Good housekeeping is one of them. If you don’t maintain good housekeeping in a tank farm, you will not be able to perform well. Good housekeeping helps you in case there is fire, during evacuation of people. In case there is fire drill, people are evacuated to the muster point. During that evacuation time, you ensure that nobody is trapped within the complex. If anybody is trapped, the rescue team will immediately commence an operation. Before you know that somebody is trapped, a roll call is called. We practise those things during our monthly drills, so that you know what you are supposed to do, where you are supposed to evacuate, the exit to take to find your way to the muster or assembly point where people can be briefed on what happened. Once the fire is extinguished, everybody is asked to go back to their posts. Government regulators will always like you to send your report (of such incidents) to them. Because it is a learning point, they correct you on the things you are supposed to do and what you are not supposed to do.
*A veteran fireman, Benjamin Opia has been Chairman, HSE Committee Ibru Port Complex since 2011 till date and oversees, coordinates and attends all incidents calls within the Ibru Yard including the electronic warehouse and all the neighborhoods such as the residential areas, and the wood market at coconut, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway