Greg Noll’s FDIC 2010 workshop, “Managing Storage Tank Fires,” aimed to educate municipal fire departments on managing emergencies involving flammable storage tanks. The class was a mix of those with industrial experience and firefighters from municipal departments, but Noll’s intent was clear: bringing municipal firefighters the knowledge to deal with industrial-scale incidents.
Building on the late Frank Brannigan’s concept that studying the relationship between the fire and building construction makes a better firefighter, Noll stressed understanding the relationship between the chemical and the container. “The more you know about the containers, the smarter you will be when it comes to assessing risk when confronting an emergency involving them,” Noll said.
Noll reviewed the various types of petroleum storage tanks and how their structures behave under pressure or fire conditions. He discussed several instances of refinery incidents at which municipal firefighters applied standard tactics–with disastrous results. Noll also remarked on the cyclic nature of knowledge and tactics in the fire service. “If we did dumb things 20 years ago, you can bet someone will be doing them another 20 years later.”
Noll is a senior partner at Hildebrand and Noll Associates, Inc., from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a regular contributor to Fire Engineering magazine, having written on hazmat response, liquefield natural gas, and other industrial firefighting topics.