Before the facility was built and put into operations, Wacker Polysilicon officials looked at safety issues the future plant might face, and created its own fire department and emergency …
Before the facility was built and put into operations, Wacker Polysilicon officials looked at safety issues the future plant might face, and created its own fire department and emergency services.
Tim Sloan, senior director of regulatory compliance at Wacker’s Charleston plant, helped form the response team. The chief of the fire department at Wacker is Dan King.
“Our firefighters are our No. 1 resource. We have 31 of them, and some of them come from local fire departments and from others in East Tennessee,” King said, adding they are knowledgeable and skilled in their professions. “We have a high standard here, whether it is with physical fitness or education.
“I will refer to our fire department as an ‘All-Star’ fire department,” King proudly stated.
All of the equipment was especially chosen for Wacker, and was decided upon before firefighters were ever hired.
“That is something that Tim and I did when I was hired. We did that well in advance before we started hiring firefighters,” King said.
The Wacker fire chief said among the fire trucks the department has, one of them is specially designed for the Charleston site “and is the only one that I am aware of that is in the United States.”
This Turbo truck is able to spray water at longer distances and larger volume.
“We have EMS, we have an ambulance, which goes back to the level of education for our firefighters who are either advanced EMTs or paramedics, and then we do confined space and HAZMAT technical rescue,” King explained. “We also have a medical clinic with our two nurses being contracted for us and they are very skilled in their roles.”
He stated the firefighters at Wacker come in at 7 a.m. and work until 7 a.m. the following morning. Of course, they do divide up into shifts so there are ample numbers at the plant every day.
King began working as a firefighter in 1996 at the city of Harriman, and worked for the Tennessee State Fire Commission out of Nashville.
“Dan is very well qualified and very well connected in the state of Tennessee. His experience and credentials make him very qualified to serve as chief,” Sloan said. King was hired in 2012.
Sloan said having a fire department on the site is something that is seen at Wacker plants in Germany, one of which just celebrated its 100th anniversary.
He said that much like in German plants, connectivity with outside agencies has been very good in Bradley County. He said that as soon as they began planning for the facility, Wacker was talking with the local EMA, EMS and fire departments about working together.
“That was well received and continues on today,” Sloan said. King especially praised the relationship with Wacker and these agencies, noting that he has worked well with Troy Spence of the Cleveland/Bradley Emergency Management Agency, Chief Shawn Fairbanks of the Bradley County Fire Rescue service and Ron Harrison, chief at the Cleveland Fire Department.
“They have a lot of experience that we can connect to, and many of our firefighters came from the county and city departments,” he noted.
The Wacker fire department was involved in the most recent events at the plant, including the explosion on Sept. 7 of a chemical pipeline and leaked tricholorosilane that, when mixed with moisture, created a vapor cloud. He agreed with previous information that putting water on the leak was the proper course of action, and the Wacker team was helped in that area by the local fire departments.
“We knocked it down and contained it at first, and they kept water on it for about six hours,” he explained. King stated the water put on the explosion area was also contained and went into the facility’s wastewater treatment system.
King said the fire department at Wacker continually trains for incidents such as the explosion and chemical leak, and knew that training helped.
“Our fire department responded as they have been trained, and did a good job,” King said.
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