March 30, 2005
Mr. John T. Conway, Chairman
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
625 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004-2901
Dear Mr. Chairman:
The purpose of this letter is to provide you with an update of our plans to reevaluate fire safety performance measures and reporting methodology. This is consistent with previous commitments delineated in my letter to you on October 18, 2004, and in a meeting with your fire protection staff on November 10, 2004.
Since our meeting with your staff, the subcommittee (of the Department of Energy Fire Safety Committee) that was tasked with addressing this issue has completed an evaluation of all fire reporting criteria currently stipulated in Department of Energy (DOE) Manual 231.1-1A, National Fire Protection Association Standard 901, and the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), as well as criteria used by several DOE sites. Pending is an effort to segregate the criteria into lists for various repositories and eliminate duplication.
In conjunction with these actions, a pilot project was initiated to enable DOE fire departments to begin entering emergency response data on a voluntary basis into the NFIRS system. While a significant number of sites have expressed interest in the pilot, only one fire department has begun to participate. Others await the resolution of issues associated with computer software compatibility, release of sensitive information, and obtaining appropriate approvals before data entry can begin. The subcommittee believes that it will require at least one year to evaluate the success of the pilot, conditional upon the participation of a representative number of departments.
On January 31, 2005, the subcommittee sent an interim progress report to the DOE Fire Safety Committee and points-of-contact for the mandated annual fire protection program summary. At that same time a request was made from all sites for additional data fields and performance elements for consideration. No additional input has been received as of this date.
In a related issue, it has been noted through Fire Safety Committee discussions and program office oversight activities that accurate reporting of fire and related events in the Occurrence Reporting and Processing System and the Computerized Accident/Incident Reporting System is being obscured by imprecise definitions. Some sites use terms such as; “thermal excursions,” “exothermic reactions,” “rapid deflagrations,” and other names in lieu “fire”. The subcommittee has developed an all-encompassing definition of “fire” to be used in all DOE reporting systems. An effort is currently underway to revise the DOE directives that govern these systems to include this new definition. This is being done with the expectation that the accuracy of future fire reporting will be enhanced.
The subcommittee has completed most of the work to identify and evaluate fire reporting criteria. It plans to issue a preliminary report during the 2005 DOE Fire Safety Workshop which is tentatively scheduled for the week of June 15th at Brookhaven National Laboratory and a final report shortly thereafter. A strawman draft of this report is enclosed for your information. Following the completion of the pilot project, revisions to current DOE fire protection program performance measures and incident reporting systems, will be coordinated with the DOE Fire Safety Committee and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) staff.
Consistent with current practice, the DNFSB staff will be kept informed of progress during the periodically scheduled teleconferences of the subcommittee. (Mr. Chuck March of your staff has been a regular participant.)
If you have any questions, please contact me at (202) 586-6151 or members of your staff may contact Mr. Frank Russo at (301) 903-8008.
John Spitaleri Shaw
Assistant Secretary for
Environment, Safety and Health
Linton F. Brooks, NA-1
Raymond L. Orbach, SC-1
James J. Mangeno, NA-3.6
Patrice Bubar, EM-3.2
Lawrence O. Bailey, EM-3