HOTA tips for training

Published:  01 October, 2008

HOTA offers two state of-the-art emergency response suites where incident managers can exercise disaster scenarios in the most realistic manner possible, explains General Manager of HOTA, Linda Ellis. “We can replicate any type of disaster an offshore installation might face, ranging from minor gas release, explosion and fire to full evacuation of the platform.

“Our two state of the art training and assessment suites are virtually identical and either can be set up to mirror an offshore/onshore control room and emergency control centre. However, what makes HOTA unique is that these courses are tailored to the individual company requirement or for the incident manager’s specific training needs.”

HOTA meets the specific training and assessment needs for several major oil and gas companies for both its onshore and offshore operations. When a company wishes to assess their capabilities to manage such emergencies, particularly in a controlled environment, a representative from HOTA visits the specific platform. This enables HOTA to provide realistic scenarios based on operational plant and equipment, platform layout, manpower and emergency response teams. Installation safety cases are researched and current Emergency Response Documents are used. Relevant CCTV imagery is produced for each of the scenarios and HOTA’s telephone exchange is programmed with the platform’s directory. When the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) arrives for his/her assessment, the room set up is familiar, telephone numbers are real and, together with his own intervention team as the scenario unfolds, it is to all intents and purposes a real event.

Ellis adds that this high level of immersion is what they are aiming for. “We can train and assess Offshore Installation Managers as well as Control Room Operators. The instructors can make it extremely realistic because each scenario is fluid and, depending on response, the achievable outcomes can differ. Actual plant logic is utilised so shutdown and blowdown times are realistic. Sound effects are used to enhance the overall effect and set the atmosphere inside the ECC.”

The “state of the art” training/assessment facility comprises several different computers with bespoke software. One computer allows the telephone exchange to be configured. A second produces any conceivable type of noise that could be experienced during an offshore disaster, such as explosions, gas release, structural failure, helicopters, alarms and weather conditions. A third computer records everything that happens in the control room – audio and video – on a real-time basis. This allows for playback for debrief purposes and a source of evidence in assessments. Other computers run sophisticated software to mimic CCTV, plant and process operations and fire and gas panels.

The two emergency response training and assessment suites were designed and built by HOTA.  “My colleague Mike Gowland designed and commissioned the facility with the assistance of a local company. Together they designed what we call our ‘box of tricks’. Assessment is conducted through a “one way” screen whilst performance criteria are assessed against national standards.”

Ellis adds that they take role play extremely seriously and even have uniforms available, which enables the role players to actually go into the control room as a fire team member or as helicopter pilots.

Great emphasis is placed on communications by telephone, radios or direct conversations. All communication is monitored and recorded and plays an important part in the assessors assessment of competence in the management of the event.
Ellis says the whole process is intense for the participants, but extremely educational, especially because every action is recorded.

The emergency response suites are located on the same site as HOTA’s fire ground complex, which is adjacent to a training pool (4.5 metres deep, 20 by 10 metres in dimension). This enables HOTA to carry out a variety of differing exercises simultaneously such as fire team management, first aid, search and rescue and major plant evacuation exercises.

 “In fact, we are even carrying out an offsite, multi disciplinary exercise in Lincolnshire around a gas terminal, which involves the fire brigade, all local emergency services, the Environment Agency, HSE and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency,” concludes Ellis.

  • Operation Florian

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