Friday, June 24, 2005

Report: LANL Fire Safety Lags

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

Fire protection at Los Alamos National Laboratory is not what it ought to be, according to a recent government report that cites both LANL and the U.S. Department of Energy for failing to implement fixes for long-standing problems.

Issued as an April 29 memo by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which oversees safety at the nation's nuclear research facilities, the report recognizes significant improvements in fire protection and safety at LANL, but notes that efforts to amend shortcomings have not been a priority and numerous problems remain unresolved.


LANL's second in command, Don Cobb, issued a March memo directing the lab to take a series of actions aimed at improving fire safety, including hiring three additional fire safety staffers, increasing the program's budget to $3 million (a 50 percent increase over the previous year) and preparing a follow-up report on actions to address maintenance issues.

But the report notes that more needs to be done.

It states that planning and scheduling are inadequate, self-assessment reviews are not being conducted according to DOE regulations and insufficient time is allotted for reviews and analyses.

The report suggests LANL needs about four more full-time positions to overcome these and other deficiencies— one more than LANL intends to hire.

"Increasing staff appears to be a prerequisite for LANL's taking the next steps of systematically analyzing fire protection issues and developing a comprehensive plan for addressing these issues," the report states.

Full Story

Oh, good. Let's hire more staff and pay them out of overhead.
In a more business-like organization, one would be forced to deal with a fixed overhead budget and would prioritize things and act accordingly. We could do a lot for fire safety with the money we spend on Chief's of Staff and Lisa Guetierrez.
As a lab retiree who worked for 10 years in a building that did not have a fire alarm, I have to agree with Mello when he says that if this were Wal-Mart it would be shut down. We frequently made management aware of the situation, but the problem was that it was a rented building. I don't know if the landlord was to cheap to put one in or if LANL was too cheap to put one in a rented building, but I believe it is unconscionable to let people work in a 3 story building that does not have a fire alarm.
There is no way this can be blamed on anyone but management and Congress. They are always griping about how expensive LANL is but the truth is Nanos was right when he said the buildings were a train wreck. Unfortunately is lack of management skill prevented him from fixing all the problems that existed.
I don't think the State of New Mexico should be giving the lab breaks on safety issues. Lives are at stake. Fortunately no fire broke out in that building but it is still a constant hazard.
In addition to what I wrote about the building in the previous post, when someone found mold in the elevator shaft, LANL spent a pile of money on killing it.
It is hard to figure how they decide which problems to fix. I am guessing price is the reason.
We just spent a few hundred K on a fire system that false alarms all the time and is in a building we all hope burns down anyway.
Ummm, with you in it?
We are in a new building the fire alarms don't work half the time. You go figure why Lab accepted the building from the contractor.
Way to go Don. And while you're at it, why don't you can some of those ADs and Division Directors who let things get to this point. And no, I don't know which portion of the Admin manual covers firing yourself. Ask Lisa or Rich.
Would 4:43 be referring to the SCC? The building built under John "COMPASS" Bretzke?
I suggest a lab-wide, mandatory stand down until everyone has completed "Safety with Matches" training.
"The report notes that LANL staff estimates that completing the fire alarm
upgrades will cost about $42 million." (ABQ Journal)

You've got to be kidding! How in the world could a simple upgrade of
the fire alarms at LANL cost $42 million? This is absurd. Even the
super-fancy NSSB building that is now being completed only cost around
$150 million to build. Where did LANL get these outrageous figures
for a fire alarm upgrade? Is this yet another rip-off by our friends
over at Halliburton/KSL?
I suggest they start with the buildings with no alarms at all. Frankly, LANL could decide to comply with its own safety standards and to make alarm systems in all buildings functional should be its number 1 priority -- at least according to LANL's own policy.
What is $42 million out of over $2 billion when people's lives are at stake.
Come on LANL, start living up to your PR.
Fire alarms are THE issue here? Perhaps the DNFSB report would be interesting, and insightful reading for some. What other issues are addressed in the Boards report, a lack of formality of operations in some areas, repeated noncompliances with code requirements, lack of/missed system inspection and testing, disregard for safety standards (not necessarily IWD's, HCP's and the like).
Don't believe it, take a walk through the TA-48-1 basement some time. Better yet, walk through most any building and see if the exits are blocked by drop points, mail boxes, equipment and any number of other "things", then look at the stair wells to see how well they're maintained.
Every other laboratory that I've ever worked at held to the philosophy that the quality of a persons work could be judged by the condition of their lab space.
But then we're LANL and we think outside of the box. Wait until LM takes over, with their compliance attitide, some may wake up in a different, and very unpleasent new world
Forget the DNFSB report! What about the Laurel and Hardy look alikes from NNSA's emergency group? They come to the site, trash everything that everyone's trying to accomplish, AND THEN spew a venomous "report" that makes no sense with, findings that can't be quantified. Another DOE "Bring Me a Rock" exercise?
Anonymous : 6/25/2005 03:10:05PM wrote:

"Forget the DNFSB report! What about the Laurel and Hardy look alikes from NNSA's emergency group? They come to the site, trash everything that everyone's trying to accomplish, AND THEN spew a venomous "report" that makes no sense with, findings that can't be quantified. Another DOE "Bring Me a Rock" exercise?"

Could you be more specific about this incident? I don't hear about things like this on my side of the fence.

Larry Creamer
DX-1, Retired
If we actually have all of these buildings without fire alarms, then this is yet another example of mismanagement on the part of UC. Of course, the Facilities Management function at LANL is incredibly wastefull and not at all responsive to the needs of the organization. And, to say that it will cost $42M to install fire alarms is scandalous!
I recently looked at a 100 page document, a Fire Hazards Analysis, for a concrete pad. The system truly is broke.Oh! By the way the concrete pad is not a fire hazard. We truly need more people do this important analysis.
Refer back to "Laurel & Hardy" from 6/25/2005 03:10:05 PM's post. NNSA thinks that it's a hazard, and is asking for more documentation and for more effort on the subject pad.
Not every issue is the result of a misdeed on the part of LANL programs,support people, or UC Management.
Many of our problems can be traced directly back to DOE/NNSA.
Pick up a DOE Order or other document some day. Read it and see if you can figure out what it means. Page after page of "Bring Me a Rock" Get used to it, it's going to get worse, much worse, before it gets better.
Maybe we'll get lucky and the whole place will burn down. That will solve the fire safety problems.
The Forest Service tried that in 2000 and we're still here. Gotta be more creative....
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