If fire breaks out on an offshore installation - dialling 999 simply isn’t an option. That’s why emergency fire training for the offshore sector needs to prepare workers for the very worst case scenario.

Current industry standards demand that at least 25% of the workforce present on any offshore installation is able to deal with an emergency fire fighting scenario so it’s critical that companies get their workers the correct training to fulfil quotas.

It’s easy to see why it’s important. After all when you’re miles from land you can’t just call on your local professional fire fighting team to come and help. You need to have someone on hand with the right skills and a calm head to tackle the flames.

Only realistic training can prepare you for the genuine experience.That’s why AIS has invested in an OPITO offshore fire simulation facility at Newcastle Airport that’s so realistic it feels like a live emergency call. As well as a ten metre tall PUMA helicopter simulator, which provides realistic simulated helideck fire-fighting scenarios, there are purpose built facilities to represent some of the internal structures present on an offshore installation. With these facilities, students experience the heat and smoke conditions of a real offshore fire.

Paul Stonebanks, managing director of AIS, says: “When you’re offshore you can’t just dial 999 and expect immediate assistance so individuals need to be well-trained and self-sufficient when dealing with these scenarios.

 “Obviously the main principles of fighting a fire remain whatever the location. The main differences in our training therefore relate to specific risks within the offshore environment such as pressurised oil and gas fires, as well as helicopter fire-fighting and rescue. Our students are taught and trained in various scenarios and situations that require them to use a range of fire-fighting techniques.

“Offshore fire fighters are more likely than others to face scenarios such as helicopter fires or pressurised oil fires.  The fires offshore can be ferocious and often in difficult to access areas such as confined spaces and on pipework, valves or even the helicopters that bring workers to the platform.

“We make the training feel like the real deal. The delegates are put on stand-by as if on an actual rig. Then we call them over the tannoy and brief them as if an incident is happening in real time. For example they might be told that there’s a fire in the accommodation block and three people are missing.

“The adrenalin starts running straight away and some people are physically shaking with nerves.  They’ll then be sent into an area which is filled with smoke and is extremely hot – upwards of 200-300 degrees Celsius. It feels real. The heat and the smoke make it uncomfortable and impossible to see.  Course delegates are very much reliant on their sense of touch so part of the training instills a sense of confidence in the PPE equipment they’re using, specialist fire fighting techniques and the right procedures to follow.

“The breathing apparatus has a working time of around 36 minutes so the fire must be extinguished before that runs out adding to the pressure.

“The difference in people at the start of the course compared to the end can be astonishing. Offshore workers, who might be drill operators or mechanics by day, take on an emergency fire fighting role as a secondary role so the equipment and experiences are very unfamiliar to them.

“By the end of the week it’s a different story and their confidence has grown immeasurably.”

To find out more about becoming an offshore firefighter call 0844 800 1810.