Odor complaints stink. No, really — when your facility’s neighbors report a foul or unusual smell coming from your site, it often feels like you’re on a timed search for a needle in a haystack. Unfortunately, this search costs you time and money, so you need to find the source of the odor — fast.

Most odor complaints result in two conclusions: the odor is coming from your site or it’s coming from somewhere else. No matter which category your odor complaint falls into, you will have invested valuable working hours and possibly slowed or halted certain processes to find the source, making odor complaint investigations a costly endeavor. And if your site is the source of the odor, this can be a leading indicator of a larger problem you must resolve.

Odor complaints from your neighbors can also damage your company’s reputation and relationship with your community. If neighbors suspect that your site is the source of the smell and you can’t quickly address the issue, it won’t be long before you have both public health and public relations issues on your hands.

While I can’t wave a magic wand to eliminate odor complaints, I can offer you four ways that dynamic plume modeling software makes resolving odor complaints stink a whole lot less.


1. Respond proactively

The easiest way to lose control of an emergency event is to hear about it from someone else. By then, it’s already out of your control. Pair that with the fact that responding to odor complaints is tedious, and you have a recipe for disaster. To successfully investigate the complaint, you must act within a small time window before the odor dissipates, making after hours or weekend complaints nearly impossible to address. Even if the complaint arises while you’re on site, you often won’t have enough information to know where to focus your efforts.

Dynamic plume modeling software can solve both issues for you with automatic alerts whenever sensors on your site detect chemicals in the air. This means you can proactively address fugitive emissions before your neighbors catch a whiff.  Instant alerts allow you to drill down to see what hazards are in the air, where they’re coming from, where they will disperse, and who will be impacted. With this live map of the impact, you can quickly create an action plan to stop the leak before it becomes a community-wide emergency.


2. Work smarter, not harder

Industrial facilities are often near one another, so while you may receive the odor complaint, you aren’t necessarily the source of the problem. When this happens, you have to deploy people and tools to search for the problem in a good-faith effort until someone finds the source or all areas of your facility have been investigated. It’s a long process, to say the least.

With this in mind, some dynamic plume modeling software can integrate with on-site weather sensors and use past or present data to help identify the source of a leak, expanding the time window in which you can operate — even if you don’t have gas sensors in that area. This means that if a nearby facility is the source, you’ll know with certainty and your teams won’t be looking for a leak that doesn’t exist on your site. Source location tools give you the power to confidently respond to odor complaints with the right answer, the first time.


3. Protect your people, plant, and community

So far we’ve focused on odor complaints from the community, but what happens when the complaints come from your own workers? Your workers are usually the first to notice when something is wrong, so to maintain a strong and accountable safety culture, you need to respond to their concerns swiftly and thoroughly. Portable gas detectors are great tools for alerting workers to potential hazards, but you can provide even more protection by layering on fixed or area gas monitors, weather sensors, and dynamic plume modeling software. With this combination, you and your workers can rest easy knowing that if a problem arises, you’ll be able to identify and resolve it quickly, protecting your people, your plant, and your community.


4. Build trust with your community

When odor complaints come in from your facility’s neighbors, the first thing they want to know is, “am I safe?” The faster and more confidently you can answer this question, the better everyone will feel. When your neighbors aren’t sure whether the air they’re breathing is safe, minutes can feel like hours. While traditional approaches to resolving odor complaints could take hours or days, dynamic plume modeling software allows you to answer questions like these in minutes. With a map overlay, you can see exactly which areas of your community are (and are not) affected by a leak, so you can proactively evacuate only the areas in danger.

If the odor is caused by a low concentration of a benign chemical, you can pull a report in minutes to show community leaders when the odor is expected to clear. This builds trust that you are acting in their best interest – which is all the more critical in a true emergency.

No matter what risks your facility presents, it’s your responsibility to protect your people, plant, and community. Having the appropriate fence line monitoring program and software tools can help you resolve odor complaints quickly and easily, so you can focus on getting the job done.