Wind turbine fires can be catastrophic. Not only the asset itself but also to the individuals and the surrounding environment. For wind farm owners seeking to safeguard their assets from fire risk, undertaking an in-depth fire risk assessment (FRA) is vital. Our latest report, ‘How to Evaluate Fire Risk at Wind Farms,’ highlights the importance of FRA’s and advises the best methods for conducting them.
The role of an FRA is to identify potential fire related hazards and bring solutions that alleviate as many risks as possible. As featured in the report, here are six industry tips for conducting a Fire Risk Assessment.
1. Evaluate likelihood and consequences
Through data and statistics, asset owners must learn the lessons from past experiences. In 90% of occurrences, turbine fires result in the complete destruction of a turbine and pose risks to others close by. This can cost companies upwards of $9 million and 18 months of revenue loss while it is being recommissioned. The spread of fire can also cause devastating damage to the natural surroundings, which can take years to recover.
Looking at the data and considering the damages associated with turbine fires in your FRA, it becomes clear that the cost for fire suppression systems is minuscule in comparison to the high financial losses that would be caused by the destruction of a turbine and its surrounding environment.
2. Defining the scope of the FRA
It is essential to define the scope of an FRA to ensure you use the right methods. For example, the FRA could be for a single system or a multisystem – the latter requires more sophisticated methods that are based on the overall impact of key factors of both passive and active systems.
Clarifying this within your FRA is a crucial consideration. While the multisystem would ultimately prevent the likelihood of fire more cohesively than single system assessments, they do require more time and up-front capital.
By defining the scope of your FRA from the beginning, you can take the most effective approach for your assets.
3. Covering different fire scenarios and outcomes
Turbine fires can vary in severity and outcome, but by ensuring that your FRA covers all possible scenarios, you are prepared for several situations within one plan. The scenarios are as follows:
- Fire Ignition
Prevention education – ensuring that asset owners and operators are educated on the causes of fire ignition to prevent hazards.
- Fire Growth
You must consider the tools that can prevent the growth of a fire once it has been ignited, for example, fixed fire suppression systems.
- Failure of a fire department to respond
Ensuring a timely contact system to emergency services is in place. This also relates to considering the accessibility of the site and if the resources the fire department has are adequate.
Segmenting your FRA into different scenarios ensures contingency plans for every possible situation which may occur during a fire on one of your turbines.
4. Work out who the intended audience is
When creating the FRA and the subsequent methods which follow, it is important to remember the knowledge and needs of its intended audience.
By keeping the audience in mind while conducting your FRA, you can best protect your personnel’s safety while also reducing any further asset damage by ensuring a level of understanding and responsiveness to your assessment.
5. Use an expert team
Ensuring the credentials of your assessment team is paramount when conducting an effective FRA. Your team needs to have expertise and experience in understanding the potential risks and be able to effectively pass over responsibility for implementing the best solutions.
Consider hiring a consultant such as an insurance loss adjuster or a fire risk investigator specializing in wind turbines. This will make sure your FRA is carried out to the highest standard and mitigates as much risk as possible to your assets.
6. Utilize a ‘Fire Safety Concepts Tree’
The NFPA developed fire Safety Concept Trees. They are visuals that allow you to see the different relationships between fire prevention and control strategies, making any gaps within the FRA much clearer.
This allows your audience to easily understand which prevention strategy works best with which scenario, allowing for quick and effective responses in crisis situations.
As the world strives to build more wind farms, creating an effective FRA has never been more important. With this growth, the number of turbine fires is set to increase unless thorough and effective fire protection measures are taken. Turbine fires have a very high financial impact on a company and a damaging reputational impact on the broader industry.
To successfully develop and grow the global wind industry, we must ensure that operations are as risk-free as possible from a human, operational and financial perspective. To do this, asset owners must take full responsibility for fire risk by developing advanced FRA’s and installing critical health and safety technologies such as fire suppression systems.