Italian firefighters prepare for severe maritime emergencies

Published:  01 September, 2006

After an exhaustive market survey and technical evaluation, the Italian National Fire Administration has finally taken delivery of the first of four shipboard fire simulators supplied by Kidde Fire Trainers.  The simulators replicate the major challenges experienced in fighting shipboard fires in a safe and environmentally-sound manner. 

Italy is a country that benefits from a nationally organised Fire Service.  The Italian National Fire Administration (INFA) is responsible for providing training, fire vehicles, fire gear and other major equipment across the whole country.  Local fire brigades have some autonomy to purchase small, specialised equipment needed to support local operations. As a result, firefighters across Italy are equipped and trained on the same state-of-the-art equipment and Italian citizens can rely on the same level of quality of the emergency response, anywhere in the county.
The Fire Administration also provides fire services to major seaports and airport authorities.  Along with recruit basic training performed by the Central Fire College located in Montelibretti (Rome), the Fire Administration has been working for many years on establishing additional training centres across Italy to provide proper training to its firefighters. 
Several centres are already in service in many major cities where theoretical fire training is performed.  To address the practical, hands-on training aspect, however, the Fire Administration looked to gas-fuelled fire simulators.
Mr. Baldassare Genova (Doctorate of Engineering), the officer in charge of the Seaports Department within the INFA explains: “By law, the fire service for the Italian sea ports is provided by the INFA through the local fire brigades. Fortunately, ship fires are not that frequent.  Yet, when they do occur they usually are very serious and dangerous.  In recent years several accidents have happened. The latest one occurred in Porto Torres (Sardinia) in January of 2004. This involved a fire on the ship ‘Panama Serena’ loaded with more than 200 tons of light hydrocarbons. Unfortunately, two people died in this disaster.”
Hazards such as these, coupled with a looming terrorist threat, has driven legislation to become increasingly stricter. This is why the INFA has started a process of increasing the skills and safety of its personnel on duty.
“Among many projects,” he continues. “We decided to acquire Kidde Maritime Fire Simulators since they replicate realistic emergency scenarios (fires, smoke, confined spaces, noises, thermal radiation, fatigue, flash points, smouldering fire, etc.) while ensuring a high level of safety for our students.
“The new simulators will be used for training both new recruits and in-service firefighters. In the end, we are sure these systems will set a standard in training procedures.  We also see them setting new management parameters to make firefighting activities more effective.”
Maritime fire trainers
INFA ordered four maritime fire trainers, each in a modular version called ShipTrainer. It was decided to install these systems in several different locations in North, Central, and Southern Italy to allow easier access for all sea fire brigades.  Accordingly, the simulators will be installed in Brindisi, La Spezia, Gioia Tauro, and in the Central Fire College located on the outskirts of Rome. This latter trainer has been already installed and is in service at the moment.  The trainer in La Spezia is currently under construction.
Several maritime fire training organisations in the United States and Europe have also expressed a similar interest in obtaining their own shipboard fire trainers.
Each Italian ShipTrainer consists of four modified ISO containers (2 x 40-foot, 1 x30-foot and 1 x 20-foot in length) stacked one on top of each other.  The ship replica is complete with narrow passageways, ship doors, hatches, ladders, decking, handrails and portholes.  The roof and the floor of the two 40-foot containers have been partially removed to create a huge engine room.
Each trainer offers the following shipboard fire scenarios:  main engine fire, bilge fire, boiler fire, fuel line fire, workshop fire, grease fryer fire with floor spill fire, berthing fire, trash bin fire, flashover effect and an electrical switchboard fire.
The computer-controlled fires can be pre-programmed to automatically grow and respond realistically, spreading from compartment-to-compartment.  The computer safety systems monitor temperature, unburned gas levels, and other parameters to ensure a safe training environment.  This allows the instructor to focus on training the students. 
In the event of an unsafe situation developing, the computer will automatically extinguish the fires and ventilate the heat and smoke from the training compartment. Alternately, the instructor can terminate the training scenario using manual emergency stop buttons.
Fires are fuelled with either LPG propane gas or natural gas, depending on what’s available at each location.  The clean-burning fires minimise local environmental impact, making the training centres ‘good neighbours’ as far as the surrounding community is concerned.  The fire training simulators use a simulated smoke to reduce visibility during training scenarios.  The simulated smoke is also environmentally benign.
Attention to safety
“We decided to purchase these specific systems because they are engineered for the training of onboard fire fighters” Mr. Genova confirmed.
It is essential that the trainers comply with IMO & STCW rules and, of course, with those of INFA. “Safety has always been a topic of concern for us. In selecting a training system, we were looking for a simulator that would realistically simulate the challenges of shipboard fires and allow fire personnel to practice actual firefighting procedures. In addition, it should ensure maximum safety for students and allow them to be used by at least 2,000 people per year.”
INFA has chosen natural gas as a fuel as this was commonly available: the system needs to meet all requirements of 90/396/EC, 97/23/, 98/37/EEC, 89/336/EEC, 73/23/EEC, 93/465/EEC, DIN 14097-T2, ISO 9001, and carry a CE certification.”
During the acquisition process the organisation took great care to verify the actual knowledge and safety record of potential suppliers.  In particular, it requested that the supplier provide a risk analysis based on 3,000 operating hours. Kidde Fire Trainers was selected, based on its track record of safety.  In 26 years the company’s customers have safely conducted over 3,000,000 fire simulations.
Kidde Fire Trainers is also taking care of the concrete platform and waste/main systems and will deliver the units as turnkey systems. In addition, the fire training system located in Rome will soon be fitted out with indoor viewing and special effects systems that use four thermal imaging cameras and a full audio system.
“We strongly believe that such live fire training systems are very effective and safe. However, to increase safety even more, and to assist in the training recruits, we decided to upgrade the first installed unit with thermal imaging cameras to monitor trainee activities.  We are currently considering to install such systems in the other three units as well,” explains Mr. Genova.

  • Operation Florian

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