Here Be Dragons

In the Medieval Period or Middle Ages, only about 5% of the population could read or write and therefore iconography was the foundation of mass communication. The phrase “Here be Dragons” (HC SVNT DRACONES) was used next to images of dragons or other mythical beasts on maps to indicate dangerous or unexplored territories i.e. to warn those who might venture there of potentially fatal hazards.

Fortunately, the global literacy rate has risen to about 86% (source: World Bank), however there is still a place for visual media to alert & guide, particularly when time & information is limited.

Since 1961, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publication 704 (Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response) has been used to “provide a simple, readily recognized, and easily understood system of markings that provides a general idea of the hazards of a material and the severity of these hazards as they relate to emergency response” with the following objectives:

  • To provide an appropriate signal or alert and on-the-spot information to safeguard the lives of both public and private emergency response personnel.
  • To assist in planning for effective fire and emergency control operations, including cleanup.
  • To assist all designated personnel, engineers, and plant & safety personnel in evaluating hazards.

It provides basic information to firefighting, emergency, and other personnel, enabling them to easily decide whether to evacuate the area or to commence emergency control procedures via a simple colour coded & numerically ranked diamond. Although widely adopted in North America , NFPA 704 is less well used/known in other jurisdictions where the GHS (Global Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) is more familiar:

GHS has the benefit of intuitive images, however, unlike NFPA 704, it does not provide a severity ranking, so our Chemical Safety Cards aim to address this by combining both classification systems:

Click for Chemical Safety Cards

Although mini Safety Data Sheets provide key information concisely, it is critical to fully understand the full nature of the hazards, i.e.:

  • WHAT is being handled
    • Chemicals i.e. physical properties
  • HOW it is being handled
    • Conditions i.e. operating parameters

The toxicity, flammability etc must be considered in context with the pressure, temperature & inventory e.g. LPG in bottles or spheres may present the same flammable Hazards, but one is more Hazardous than the other because the conditions are more extreme (more likely to leak) and the contents are greater (more severe effects) :

Image Credit : Calor
Typical LPG Spherical Tank

Emergency Response Cards consider both the Chemicals and Conditions to provide a clearer picture of (relatively) how dangerous individual plant items are – these are described on a dedicated page which you can access by clicking on the sample card below:

Example Emergency Response Card (Buncefield Tank T912)

Cards can be used informally in Top Trump style game format to increase awareness, in an anonymised format for quizzes or issued to onsite and offsite emergency responders as portable, accessible and memorable guidance.

Although Emergency Planning & Response is a core element of established Safety Management Systems, and responsible & high reliability organisations will rehearse their responses with internal resources and external agencies (Fire Brigades, Police Departments, and Emergency Medical or Ambulance Services), the nature of these operations is that they operate on a shift-basis and it can take time to ensure every person on every shift has participated in at least one emergency exercise.

Site personnel may have the process/plant knowledge but may lack experience if their facility has never experienced an incident, whereas the emergency services have the experience of attending incidents but may not be fully familiar with the specific materials, assets & activities on each site.

Packs of cards can include folded site maps with each asset (card) identified to help orientate and navigate the response:

Emergency Response cards aim to provide concise context – to help make better decisions (“fight or flight“) under extremely stressful conditions. These are developed with you, based on your plants, chemicals & conditions, for you to discuss with and issue to all relevant internal & external stakeholders.

Cards can be branded and/or colour coded to match your requirements or corporate standards and produced in local languages.

For more information on Emergency Response, Chemical Safety (SDS), Incidents or any other cards – please contact us.

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