There were 20 foot flames being fought at Alon’s Refinery on Thursday in Big Spring, during its Annual Emergency Training Drill. All of Howard County’s emergency services were on hand and participated in the live fire and smoke scenarios.
In 2008 there was a huge explosion at the Alon Big Spring Refinery plant that left a handful of people injured and the plant offline for several months.
To prepare for future emergencies, Alon holds a yearly emergency training drill at its plant.
“In Howard County we fight more hydrocarbon fires than we do house fires,” said Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief, Tommy Sullivan.
Which is why Alon and Howard County first responders perform these types of training exercises,
and Vice president Jeff Broman says the plant operators and first responders are now more equipped to handle explosions or other emergencies.
“I think we're better prepared, prior to 2008, we had never had an event that huge,” said Vice President of Refining. Jeff Brorman.
First responders and Alon officials use training structures to mock the refinery's equipment to make the scenario as real as possible.
“I have been responding salt well drills for over 25 years and this was one most realistic…You know this was a fire and the firefighters had to fight real fire,” said Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief, Tommy Sullivan.
Organizers created 9 different types of fires for the crews to put out, but these scenarios were not scripted and emergency responders had no idea what to expect.
“The flames there would have been 20, 30 feet in the air they would have been emitting black smoke and it also would have been 2,000 3,000 degrees,” said Director of Safety Lynn Richardson.
First responders and Alon officials say Thursday’s drill was a success, but found say there's always room for improvement.
“I thought we had addressed all our communication issues, well we had some more today,” said Lynn Richardson.
Lynn Richardson, the Alon Director of Safety says the process and industrial safety standards have improved since 2008. He says he hopes 2008's incident won't be repeated, but says after Thursday's successful training exercise his team is ready.