Chemical processing facilities need reliable emergency response plans and systems (ERPS) in order to manage technological risks to plant personnel, the surrounding communities, and the environment. An optimal emergency response system is one that enables plant emergency response personnel to quickly identify release details (such as leak location, size, and conditions) and how far the release is going to be transported downwind. The impact of most release scenarios is typically realized within the the first ten minutes. For example, a neutrally buoyant toxic vapor chemical release that occurs at ambient wind speed conditions of 5 m/s will be transported 1.5 kilometers in 5 minutes. This does not leave much time for emergency response personnel to run computer models in real time to determine the extent and direction of the dispersion. Time is of the essence during a chemical release. Emergency response time can be minimized by pre-planning for credible leak scenarios.
Many plants have their own meteorological towers providing real time data. Some have invested in real time systems for predicting in real time where the potential impact zones are and/or will be and when the impact is likely to be realized and how severe it will be. This information is often visualized on site and surroundings maps. The results would then be communicated to plant and community emergency responders so that they could take appropriate action in the form of evacuation plans for local communities, industries, schools, traffic control plans, and alerting medical facilities for treating potential exposure.
This type of real-time emergency response is challenging and often unreliable. Many operating companies feel that emergency response planning guidelines prepared well in advance of potential emergencies provide a more reliable and quicker alternative.
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