Chemical plants do not immediately come to mind when thinking about emergency preparedness in the utility industry. But they should, because one industrial plant explosion could cause a domino effect that initiates or extends outages.
How Chemical Plants Can Impact Outages
This scenario actually happened during Hurricane Harvey, when flooding caused a power outage. Not only did the power go out, but the plant’s backup generators also failed to operate.
As a result, the plant’s refrigeration system could not operate. This ultimately led to multiple explosions from volatile chemicals when they could not be kept cool, and adding insult to injury, the risk of airborne chemicals triggered local evacuations. Check out this article for more background.
The bottom line is that chemical plants, by their very nature, can act as metaphorical ticking time bombs during massive storms. And utilities that have these potential bombs in their service territory must account for them in emergency plans and protocols. This includes things such as:
- Ensuring that chemical plants have immediate access to backup generation
- Ensuring that chemical and industrial plants are near the front of the line in terms of restoration priority
- Working with plant operators on plant hardening strategies and tactics
- Involving plant personnel in utility exercises and drills
- Incorporating the impact of a localized evacuation scenario into the emergency plan
The old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, applies to the relationship between utility companies and the chemical plants within their service territories. So, take the time to review your company’s emergency plans and protocols today, to ensure that chemical plants are adequately addressed.