TVA Employees Are Ready to Respond

TVA’s robust Emergency Response Training program — now housed in a new multipurpose training center — ensures that employees are ready to deal with fires, hazardous materials leaks, health crises, accidents and more.

OCTOBER 7, 2016—It’s not just anyone who gets to dream up disasters for a living, but for Phil Johnson and the staff at the TVA Emergency Response Training, it’s all in a days work. It’s their job to ensure that TVA employees know how to deal quickly and safely with everything from electrical fires in cable trays to gas leaks in combustion turbine plants to hazardous materials spills on nuclear sites.

And so they envision the worst-case scenarios—and simulate them in TVA’s new Emergency Response Training Center in Jasper, Tenn. The 4,800-square-foot center, completed in April of 2016, is a useful house of horrors, explains Johnson, who's manager of Emergency Response Training at TVA. It contains five specialized rooms for fire training fueled by three propane simulators. One room is set up to simulate an oil-storage room fire. The second is a room that has fire coming out of a simulated 480v board and spreading into cable trays above, while the third features a cable room with a fire spreading to multiple cable trays. The other two burn rooms can be configured into office- or storage-type areas.

The training building—which simulates a plant-like setting—also includes a five-story tower with a shaft, scaffold-type fixture designed for attaching rope rescue systems such as might be used on an exhaust stack or cooling tower. On the inside, it allows for confined space rescue, enclosed ladder and suspended worker scenarios. Additional programs offered by TVA Emergency Response Training include CPR, first aid and National Incident Management System (NIMS) training.

The new facility is constructed of thick concrete walls lined with fire-proof panels that are similar to the material used on the space shuttles, is designed to last at least 50 years and replaces a defunct building that was only 1,600 square feet in size.

It represents a significant upgrade, according to its champion, John McCormick, vice president Safety, River Management and Environment at TVA. “This new building is a investment in worker safety and asset protection,” McCormick says.

And there is no doubt that the training offered at the center is effective. When problems do arise, they are handled by employees who are well trained and prepared. Events successfully dealt with over the years include: main bank transformer fires at Bull Run, Cumberland and Sequoyah; an anhydrous ammonia release at Kingston; a rescue from a stack at Widows Creek; and—most recently—the transformer fire at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.

“I got a lot of comments from the responders at Watts Bar,” says Johnson. “The feedback was that they hadn’t realized how realistic our transformer simulator fire was. It wasn’t as big, but the tactics we taught worked extremely well in a real situation.”

The center offers initial and refresher courses in structural and incipient fire brigade, hazardous materials response, confined space/technical rescue, first aid/CPR/AED, NIMs and emergency medical response.

In the last year alone, over 7,000 employees have attended emergency response training, representing 57,000 contact hours with zero injuries—a fact that Johnson is particularly proud of: “TVA values the safety of its employees, and we are honored to get to prepare employees to help other employees. Safety is our number one goal.”

He’s also proud to be supporting the TVA's mission—the three Es: environment, economic development and energy. ““If our employees are well trained and successful in performing first aid or rescue for injured employees, or containing fires or hazardous materials events at our plants, we will protect our people, the public, the environment and our assets,” Johnson says. “If we’re prepared, we not only save lives, but avoid potentially millions of dollars in damage and lost generation at our generating facilities.”

That’s because every possible emergency Johnson and his team can dream up comes with a solution. And with the Emergency Response Training Center, TVA has the knowledge, the tools and a new state-of-the-art facility to prepare TVA personnel to deal with a wide range of critical emergencies calmly, effectively, efficiently and safely.