The risk and consequences of catastrophic fires in spirits distilling are well documented. One of the worst in the industry occurred in 1996, when a Heaven Hill production plant was almost completely destroyed by a fire that began in an aging warehouse and quickly spread. In a deadly explosion at an illegal vodka distilling operation in Boston in 2011, five men died instantly after a huge explosion that threatened the lives of emergency workers and nearby residents. The risks in the production of distilled spirits are ubiquitous. Process hazards include the presence of large quantities of flammable liquid spirits, combustible dust hazards, and risks associated with refrigerants such as ammonia. So, when Brown-Forman Corporation – one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies and among the top 10 largest global spirits companies – acquired a 150-year-old tequila distillery located in Guadalajara, Mexico, upgrading the facility’s fire brigade was a high priority for the company. Brown-Forman enlisted Telgian Corporation to provide special industrial firefighting training for workers at a newly acquired plant.
Inside the Project: Industrial Firefighting Training for High Risk Industry
The company reached out to Telgian, a worldwide provider of comprehensive fire, security, life safety consulting and engineering / design services based on the depth of its relevant expertise in this area. The company was hired to discuss the scope of a potential industrial firefighting training project and worked with Brown-Forman to restructure and train the Guadalajara industrial fire brigade to ensure the brigade members understood and were prepared to respond to the significant fire and safety risks present in a distilled spirits manufacturing facility. Telgian provided bilingual industrial firefighting training and established procedures and strategies based on industry standard NFPA 600 for industrial fire brigades.
Over the following year, the Telgian team provided ongoing specialized firefighter training to the Guadalajara tequila operation. From reinforcing the basic firefighting skills to tactics for working with high-alcohol substances, including the use of foam applications, Telgian provided training for the employees in the skills necessary for them to become an effective industrial fire brigade for the distillery.
Telgian not only brought this industry expertise and customer-focused solutions to the job, but also helped the distillery identify candidates for its new fire chief position. Telgian continues to be involved in the ongoing training of the fire brigade and travels to the distillery several times a year to personally manage its ongoing consulting services.
The effectiveness of the fire safety training Telgian provided led Brown-Forman to analyze other areas where Telgian expertise could benefit the operation’s fire safety program. Thus, Telgian has increasingly supported Brown-Forman’s Guadalajara operations, providing not only firefighting training but also training in emergency management, establishing incident command and control systems, and more.
This comprehensive training includes no-notice exercises to test and validate the site’s ability to respond to and recover from a major fire emergency. Following each exercise, Telgian debriefs with the industrial fire brigade and facility executives to address any inconsistencies or issues to help ensure Brown-Forman is equipped to be successful in containing an industrial fire or explosion.
Brown-Forman’s Success Story
The training at Brown-Forman’s Guadalajara operations resulted in:
* Increased awareness of the process hazards and inherent risks of distilled spirits manufacturing
* Clearly established responsibilities and response protocols
* Trained fire brigade prepared to respond to and contain fire events
* Minimized consequences of potentially catastrophic incidents that could result in loss of life or disruptions in production
* Ability to meet all applicable compliance requirements
* Reduced vulnerability