This blog is part five in a six-part series discussing how Digital Transformation will affect Emergency Preparedness. Throughout this series, we explore how Digital Transformation is helping to positively impact Emergency Readiness in the Petrochemical and Refining sectors.

Blog Series Introduction: Emergency Preparedness and Digital Transformation

Recently, Miriam Webster’s Dictionary announced the “Word of the Year” for 2019.  They chose the pronoun, “they.”

If we were to choose a phrase of the year in the Industrial sector, it is likely that we would choose “Digital Transformation.”  Interestingly, both choices involve some controversy. While many would agree that our industry is transforming, there is some disagreement on how far we have really come. The innovator and early adopter organizations may well have achieved some advancements as they have transformed digitally.  For example, they may be taking advantage of cloud-based applications to standardize in the enterprise. However, the heart of the bell curve and the laggards would be hard-pressed to show any major changes to demonstrate true transformation.

innovation-cycles

Not only is it still difficult to quantify success in Digital Transformation, but some industry experts are even questioning some of the assumptions about the application of technology for transformation. For example, it has long been assumed that Predictive Analytics will allow for substantial improvements in maintenance planning. This article, from McKinsey, lays out an interesting perspective suggesting that this argument may be misguided.

At inFRONT, though, we are laser-focused on Emergency Response and Readiness. So, we ask the question, “What does the future of Digital Transformation look like in Industrial Emergency Response?”   

Acknowledging some of the lessons learned in the McKinsey article, we’ll present some thoughts on the future with pros and cons. BUT, as is almost always true, predictions are often poorly timed or just plain wrong. So, these are suggestions and ideas rather than true predictions.

RFID and GPS

A lot has been made, in our industry, about “personnel tracking.” inFRONT has remained consistent in our belief that tracking people, while it may seem like the logical end game, is not necessarily the solution for most cases. There are some excellent applications for Emergency Responders, their vehicles and equipment. But costs, technical challenges, data privacy and legal concerns may be too challenging to overcome for total adoption.

Other wireless applications

Connectivity opportunities beyond traditional cellular tech with GPS are many.   Tablets for monitoring events as they occur, mobile check-in devices, cellular apps, etc. are among the available, but not yet highly adopted solutions.

Forensic Information

If Emergency Responders can review the behavior of their workforce after drills or events, they may be able to predict behavior in a future event. By practicing specific scenarios (toxic release, explosion, fire, active shooter, etc) and analyzing the information after that drill, sites and companies can better predict behavior. They can also adjust processes and training to improve the odds of success in an emergency. 

Life Safety Protective Equipment

Companies that fit into the innovator and early adopter stages appear to be into the journey as it relates to equipment like GPS enabled gas monitoring, wearables for location, etc. This adoption plays a role in Digital Transformation because data are generated from each device and system.  The ongoing challenge will involve how all of the data generated are made available for use by the Emergency Response organization. As has occurred in other industries, an aggregate dashboard or integrated solution will need to emerge for maximum effectiveness.

Drones

Drones are now commonplace at World Class Petrochemical sites.  In fact, at the 2019 AFPM National Occupational and Process Safety conference, there was a panel discussion on the use of drones for Process Safety applications. There are a couple of documented cases in which drones were used to accurately direct the appropriate fire suppression at major industrial fires in 2019.

The opportunity to use a drone or two to locate downed workers (formerly called, “man down” situations) or to direct groups assembled during an emergency may prove very valuable going forward.

Looking Ahead

In what other ways will technology continue to improve our ability to keep people safe and to account for them in emergency scenarios? We’d love to hear from you and your organization! Best of success in continuing to improve in 2020.