Spanish Industrial Firefighters Association celebrates its first official congress

Published:  15 December, 2014

Two years ago, the Spanish industrial fire fighters association, APBE (Asociación Profesional de Bomberos de Empresa) held a two-day series of presentations and meetings in the Mediterranean resort town of Arenys de Mar – a forerunner to the association’s first official Congress held October 18-19 in another coastal resort town, Salou. Report from George Potter in Madrid.

Apart from the nature of the event itself, the 2014 Congress venue, Salou, is surrounded by several major industrial complexes that are sites of two major petroleum refineries, numerous petrochemical and pharmaceutical plants and similar high potential hazard facilities, a major commercial seaport and an international airport. There are also three nuclear power plants located less than 30 kilometres from the Congress venue. Several of these entities have their own in-plant emergency response brigades and there are two brigades organized and managed by consortiums composed of several of the major and/or high hazard companies in the region. The Catalonian regional fire service has three public service fire stations in the immediate area plus three more less than 20 minutes distant. Also, there are three training facilities specialized in training industrial emergency responders in the area. So, it goes without saying that Salou was the most adequate choice for this first Congress.

These two events have been held on weekends due to the nature of the working schedules of the majority of the members of the association, they cannot take weekdays off, they have to take advantage of their weekend “free time”.

The APBE became a formal professional entity some five years ago, when several industrial fire brigade members who until then had been a kind of industrial branch of the national fire fighters association, ASELF. This nucleus group, initially from the petrochemical and nuclear fire protection sectors, felt that the time was right to establish a specific professional association organized by and oriented to industrial emergency responders, both full time and part time. The APBE now has more than 300 members from not only the petrochemical and nuclear sectors, but also from the automotive, civil aviation and maritime port fire services. The APBE remains very close to ASELF, and in fact, many APBE members maintain their ties with ASELF. A number of the newer members are emergency responders who form part of their companies’ emergency response plans, while being employed in diverse production areas of the companies. The principal objective of APBE is to improve job performance qualifications and preparedness through concise and continued training and resources. The APBE also maintains close relations with JOIFF in matters of job performance standards and training criteria.

The speakers and presentations were varied, and oriented around the numerous specific and unique requirements of industrial emergency responders. The importance of the interface of industrial emergency entities and public emergency services was expressed in various presentations, from both the public and the industrial sectors. Another three speakers made presentations on services and products of importance for both sectors.

Nearly 120 industrial emergency responders and personnel from the local public emergency services attended the Congress.

The Saturday morning session got off to a start with the inauguration by the President of the association, Marc Uribe, and authorities from the Catalonian Fire and Rescue Services, the Barcelona municipal fire brigade and the head of public safety and civil protection of Salou.


- THE CLUSTER FOR FIRE SAFETY – Ms. Montse Costa. This is a recently established association of consultants, manufacturers and suppliers of fire safety resources and equipment, whose principal objectives include the capacity to provide a wide range of optimum solutions for fire protection to industries and other major hazard activities.

- JOINT FIRE PROTECTION SERVICES IN THE TARRAGONA INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX – Mr. Ivan Gil of the Tarragona Chemical Companies Association. Mr. Gil explained the structure, operational guidelines and functions of the fire brigades managed by the industrial consortiums of the area.

- UNIVERSITY DEGREE PROGRAMMES IN PREVENTION AND RISK MANAGEMENT – Ms. Ruth Carandell, Director of the Integral Safety and Prevention School of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Ms. Carandell expressed the possible solutions for this area of expertise, which has been a “pending subject” for many years in the public and private fire safety and protection sectors of Spain.

- BARCELONA, THE FACTORS INVOLVED IN EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT – Mr. Joan Pedreny, Chief of Prevention and Civil Protection of the Barcelona municipal fire brigade. This brigade of just over 700 officers and firefighters (including 20 women) protects the city of Barcelona, 98 sq.kms.  with a population of 1,6 M., operating out of seven stations. Risks include high density population, a vast industrial complex and one the Mediterranean’s most active commercial seaports.

- INTERVENTION IN INCIDENTS INVOLVING PYROTECHNICS – Mr. José M. Arias of Pirotécnia Igual. The multitude of hazards involved with fireworks present some uncommon situations to emergency responders, starting with the basic materials used in the fabrication of the devices through the setting up of festive displays to the controlled sequences of the displays. When accidents occur, the consequences can be tragic.

- NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS, ASSUMED RISKS? – Mr. Ferran Liesa, retired Inspector of the Catalonia regional fire service. The specific fire, radiation and hazmat hazards present in nuclear power facilities require specific prevention and intervention solutions, sometimes not fully understood by the general public and even emergency services that do not respond to emergencies in these facilities.

- TRAINING IN SELF PROTECTION – Ms. Meritxell Pineda of the Celrá Institute and the Fuego Foundation. The need for and the elaboration and implementation of self protection plans or internal emergency response plans are often overlooked, or at the least, are not considered to be of primary importance in many activities. However, safety managers who take their responsibilities seriously must put the training of their emergency responders in a foremost place in the implementation programme. This includes the initial training during the implementation phase and continuous, on-going training necessary to maintain absolute preparedness for any possible emergency.

- SINGULARITIES OF AIRPORT FIRE SERVICES – Mr. Carlos Tomás, civil aviation firefighter and instructor at the National Civil Protection School. Emergency incidents involving aircraft and their surroundings are unique. An aircraft crash can imply a massive liquid fire with hundreds of victims trapped inside a very large cylinder, with very few options for rescue and survival. However, there are many other hazards present in airports, from potential hi-rise incidents through massive structural fire hazards to underground transport installations.

- ON-GOING TRAINING OF FIREFIGHTERS, CONSEQUENCES IN SAFETY AND SERVICE QUALITY – Dr. Agustí Ruiz of the Instituto de Estudios Médicos. Learnig is an on-going process, and firefighters must keep their knowledge finely honed in order to perform their assigned tasks competently and safely. This implies continued and continuous training, be it theoretical in classrooms or hands-on training sessions in intervention techniques and tactics.

- INFORMATION IN EMERGENCIES – Ms. Nuria Iglesias of the Catalonia Fire and Rescue Services. As complete information as possible is essential for the successful and safe solution of emergencies. The information itself, from the receipt of the alarm through the communication to the appropriate response units to the absolute termination of the incident is essential, as well as adequate means of communication, its use and operation. If any of these fail, the intervention is exposed to failure, and the safety of the intervening personnel, their resources and possible victims is placed in jeprody.

- RESPIRATORY EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE – Mr. Wilbert Mon of AIRBOX. Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is an essential part of the emergency responder’s self protection ensemble, be it for combating fires or controlling hazmat incidents. Proper maintenance will signify the safe operation of the equipment or its possible failure which would expose the user to probable serious injury or even death.

- COMPUTER SCIENCE APPLIED TO FIRE PROTECTION IN INDUSTRY – Mr. Rafael Izaguirre, seconded officer of the Catalonia regional fire service. Computers can significantly aid industrial emergency managers in the management of fires and other emergency situations through their capacity to store and administer innumerable quantities of information, making this information available to the emergency manager almost instantaneously.

- CBRN PROTECTION EQUIPMENT – Ms. Marisa López of DRÄGER. Adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essential for emergency responders. The selection, use and maintenance of CBRN ensembles must be understood and followed by these responders, be they industrial brigade personnel or in public emergency response agencies.

The Congress was complimented by an exhibition of material and equipment of the more than 20 sponsoring firms and entities including AIRBOX, Elite Bags, Magirus, Previnsa, DRÄGER, Ribo, IEM, Falck and GP&S.

Plans are now under way for the second Congress in 2015.

  • Operation Florian

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