Responder Credentialing – Are We on the Same Page?

by Gordon Lohmeyer

Today’s oil and gas industry focuses mainly on production. After all, without the refining of fossil fuels; the world as we know it would come to an abrupt halt. Take a minute to consider what fuels our vehicles, heats our homes and gives us the many consumer goods that we so heavily have became reliant upon.

There is a factor that must be considered during fossil fuel production; for emergency responders we must ask “are we prepared to deal with the worst case event?”

Fire Chiefs and Emergency Response Coordinators spend countless hours inthe planning, scheduling, preparing and delivering of training to their emergency responders. Close attention to regulations, standards and industry best practices must be considered. Not withstanding is each facilities’ interpretation of what is best for it, and special hazards/exposures which will weigh into those decisions.

On any given day, a significant fire event, hazardous material release or other emergency can affect how the supply and distribution chain functions. Considerations must encompass how to protect our people, the environment, surrounding communities and the company’s assets. Working with dangerous commodities, either as part of day-to-day operations or as an emergency response, is always risky. Mistakes can happen with disastrous results. Each event is unique and complications and hazards can be masked.

Once a problem emerges, the dangers to health, property, and life can escalate rapidly. Even the newest and best-equipped facility is vulnerable potential emergency conditions. There is no better defense against fire than to establish, staff, and train a response team. The need for specialized emergency-response training is so great that companies that manufacture, transport, store, or otherwise handle hazardous substances are required to train their employees to detailed standards.

We must understand that response roles are limited by the level of training they’ve received. In short, they must operate within and according to their levels of training and competencies.

Several training options and credentialing factors may come into play. The difficulty faced by industrial and emergency services personnel is to sort through applicable standards and available training curricula, and even determine the levels of training employees need.

Understanding the different levels of training is crucial. The handling of hazardous materials and responding to incidents require a variety of personnel responsibilities. We must understand that response roles are limited by the level of training they’ve received. In short, they must operate within and according to their levels of training and competencies. But how do we ensure ourselves that training is consistent in both content and direction?

Responder credentialing can be accomplished in various ways. One of the most universally recognized is by following the National Fire ProtectionAssociations (NFPA) standards. The NFPA standards are an excellent guide to ensure that training is accomplished which meets a pre-described set of job performance requirements (JPR) for each givendiscipline. By using the NFPA standardsas a “road map” for training, you can be assured that skills sets will bestandardized for all regardless of employer or location. For multiple company response (mutual aid), it allows both the affected company and command staff the ability to match responders capabilities with their expected response roll. If it hasn’t already happened, there is a good probability that you will be faced with the challenge of making the response pieces of the puzzle fit together. Careful consideration and execution of an emergency responder credentialing plan will pay off in the long run.

About the author

Gordon L. Lohmeyer, Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS), is the Executive Associate Division Director for Texas A&M University’s Texas Engineering Extension Service/Emergency Services Training Institute (TEEX/ESTI). Before employment with TEEX, he worked for Texas Petrochemicals LP as an emergency-response coordinator for the company’s Houston Texas, Baytown Texas, and Lake Charles Louisiana facilities. Gordon holds degrees from Blinn College, Sam Houston State University and San Jacinto College