Safe training for effective response

Published:  13 July, 2015

What qualities make an effective training ground? Nico Zorzetto of Italian manufacturer SANCO SpA describes a training ground recently installed in a gas treatment facility in Algeria, north Africa.

The importance of training is to gain confidence in working with possibly hazardous elements that humans may innately fear. In the peculiar world of fire fighting where the key saying is ‘estote parati’ - meaning ‘be ready’ - the meaning of training takes on a different dimension.

The training of personnel is the cornerstone of the fire service both for acquiring new skills as well as for maintaining proficiencies and keeping skills sharp. In order to survive, firefighters must be able to think critically and clearly and solve problems quickly under extremely stressful conditions. To prepare firefighters for actual fires, training officers use purpose-made facilities to conduct live fire training, offering students the opportunity to develop their skills by learning appropriate behaviour through repeated experiences.

A dedicated training scenario for each operational capability is vital, and ideally one that can be validated against operational performance to ensure that it continues to meet operational needs. In order to train firefighters for potential incidents in their environment a fire training facility that is tailored to their risks is the best solution and - as we all know - today such facilities exist, ranging from urban search and rescue, wildland fires, offshore and onshore petrochemical fire fighting. At SANCO we created and built such a fire training ground for a company operating a gas treatment facility in Algeria, north Africa.

In order to ensure its training effectiveness (including realism) and to guarantee maximum safety, the fire training ground was based not only on NFPA 1403 (‘Standard on live fire training evolutions’) and other international norms, but also on the specifications of international oil and gas enterprises such as Shell and BP, not to mention also the additional specific demands of the client.

One of the challenges of simulating hazardous conditions for industrial emergency training is how to ensure that exercises can be repeatable. To overcome this problem SANCO adapted the training equipment for the use of LPG as the fuel for gaseous fires and with an option for flammable liquid fires. As LPG is more difficult to extinguish than gasoline the training outcome can be better. To provide the fuel for all fire scenarios a dedicated LPG container was delivered complete with a suitable protective wall made of concrete.

All fire scenarios are entirely and independently controlled by the trainer at the fire training ground control centre. At the command console of a control room, the trainer can ignite and stop the fire, as well as increase and decrease the fire’s intensity in response to the fire suppression actions of the trainees.

In the case that the operator leaves the control room unattended during an exercise the safety system that continuously monitors the training system will cease feeding LPG to the fire and pilot burners.

This control room building is on two levels: the lower one comprises a valve house for compressed air distribution valves (air is used to actuate LPG proportional valves with maximum safety) and automatic/manual valves for the emergency flushing system that protects the trenches from any LPG leakages. It contains an air compressor and it can also be used to store personal protective equipment (SCBA, flame retardant suits, masks, etc.). As the controls are housed on the upper level, the trainer and other supervising personnel can enjoy maximum visibility.

The console affords total remote control and regulation of the parameters of each fire scenario, whilst also providing detailed maps of the facilities.  A number of gas detectors installed throughout the fire training ground provide additional fire and gas detection information to a panel in the control room, enabling an automatic emergency shutdown and the flushing of trenches in case of any LPG leakage. Several additional emergency push buttons have been installed throughout all the various scenarios in order to immediately stop fires in the case of an emergency occurring during the fire extinguishing training.

Low, medium or high-risk scenarios using nine burning systems in seven different scenarios can be managed from the control room:

·           Torch fire (simulating a fire erupting from the end of a broken pipe cap).

·           Pool fire, 4 sqm (simulating the rupture of a blind flange on a pipe, the leakage  and ignition of fuel spilled from the flange and the fire from the flange).

·           T-shaped cross pool (simulating a wide-area liquid fire).

·           Inclined plate (simulating fire from fuel that is dripping on an inclined plate).

·           Ruptured vessel surface fire.

·           Relief valve fire.

·           Loose flange fire.

·           Exploded pipe fire with pipe interception valve closure simulation.

·           ‘Christmas tree’ fire (simulating a large volume fire in a complex system of cross pipes).

In addition to the aforementioned gas detection unit that is interfaced with the training ground system, SANCO also installed a flushing system for the LPG pipe trenches to prevent explosions caused by LPG leakages.


Established in 1988 in Novara, north-west Italy, SANCO is an international designer, manufacturer, installer and project management company for gas and fire detection systems, fire fighting equipment systems, and fire fighting vehicles. Listed in the Italian stock exchange, SANCO employs 152 employees and has a presence in over 70 countries. Its 38,000 sqm manufacturing facilities include a test laboratory, a fire test demonstration area, a tooling/welding department, two manufacturing divisions (mechanical for equipment, systems and vehicles and electronic for fire and gas panels) and a R&D department dedicated to product improvement.

  • Operation Florian

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