Evaluating competence

Published:  01 January, 2009

At the cutting-edge of industrial fire training a systematic approach and some world-class facilities are required. With 35,000 students per year going through Falck Risc’s gates in Rotterdam, it must be doing something.

Rotterdam is a truly international city, and apart from having one of the largest ports, it also consists of a huge industrial area where every self-respecting oil, gas and chemical company owns facilities and storage complexes. It goes without saying that an area of this calibre requires a world-class training facility, and IFJ visited Falck Risc, based in Maasvlakte-Rotterdam in October, where it met marketing manager Richard Mildenberg. At the same time, the institute’s industrial training team demonstrated how this high-tech training facility stays at the cutting-edge of industrial fire training with its live fire simulators.


Falck Risc sees over 35,000 students from all over the world passing through its gates every year, and Mildenberg explains that the institute delivers competence-based training in four different areas, and these are offshore, maritime, public safety and industrial. All training courses are accredited by the leading industry associations such as NOGEPA (NL), OLF (NO), OPITO (UK) and around 200 people are employed on the facility in Maasvlakte-Rotterdam. Worldwide mother company Falck Nutec operates specialised training centres in over 12 countries.


The training location in Maasvlakte-Rotterdam covers an area of over 4.5 hectares, and the company has built a wide range of training simulators, ranging from process installations, large surface fires, a block of flats, ships, trains, trams, a motorway, offshore escape pods, to an ultra deep swimming pool for survival at sea training complete with a helicopter crash simulator.


According to Mildenberg it is quite a challenge to simulate a liquid fire in a realistic way. “To create the highest realism possible on the storage tank fire simulator we use a mixture of propane and white spirit to fuel the simulator, which creates the greatest resemblance to a running fuel fire, while limiting emissions into the environment.”


Environmental credentials are high on Falck Risc’s agenda, and the training centre has installed one of the most advanced fire water run off systems in Europe. The closed sewer system can handle up to 40,000 litres a minute, and the water gets treated in a settlement tank, where microbes break down the harmful substances in the fire water. The clean water is then recycled back into the installation.


It is very important, however, that the right training foam is used for the system to work properly, and Mildenberg recalls an occasion where a fire brigade which came to train at the facility brought its own foam, which killed all the microbes in the recycling system by accident. Luckily enough Falck Risc was able to restore the balance in the tank very soon after the incident by decreasing the foam solution in its training foam.


An emergency organisation can have up to four levels within its structure all of which can be trained and assessed at Falck Risc. This methodology ensures that for all levels of the incident organisation the correct capabilities are trained. Mildenberg explains that the Dutch government has set out national standards for competence, to which operational firefighters and officers of all levels are assessed. Falck Risc has developed a competence-based assessment system. This appraisal system enables the instructor to identify the competences of the firefighters during practical exercises. Certain learning goals outlined under the commission of the government have written scenarios attached to them to match the national standards for competence as closely as possible. This means that 90 per cent of the everyday situations can be carried out for training and assessments.


The core element of the assessment system is the way the competences of the student are evaluated and registered. All competences relating to a specific practice card are noted by qualified Falck Risc assessors. Each competence is judged as either sufficient, or ticked as requiring more attention. In this way all strong and weak points are highlighted and they are entered in the automated system. Subsequently the client receives a written report for each student including the general recommendations of the assessor and an easy-to-read graphical representation indicating their personal competences. This report can serve as the basis for a personal development plan on which the client can base further training for that employee. The criteria for the new competency-based exercises can be recorded and so used to measure performance and competency of every firefighter.


The company even has a dedicated Emergency Response Team (ERT) for maritime and offshore incidents, which consists of a group of Falck Risc instructors who are on call night and day. “This team of highly-skilled professionals can get anywhere in the world within 24-hours to assist with calamities or hazardous goods incidents. The team’s intervention can mean the difference between damage limitation control and a total loss.

In addition, the experience that team members gain during these incidents is used in the training sessions they deliver,” concludes Mildenberg.

  • Operation Florian

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