News

Industrial fire demonstrates importance of Chemsafe Scheme

15/07/2014
chemsafe chemical fire

Last week NCEC’s emergency response team provided crucial support to emergency services attending a substantial chemical fire at a factory near Stroud. The fire involved a number of extremely hazardous chemicals, which included thousands of litres of hydrofluoric acid (HF), hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.

HF is well known in chemical circles, due to its ability to easily penetrate tissue, in fact even small splashes on the skin can be fatal .

Recognising the seriousness of the chemicals involved in the incident, the hazardous material fire officer used Chemsafe, a free chemical advice telephone service dedicated to supporting UK emergency services. The Chemsafe service is managed by NCEC in conjunction with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Chemical Industry Association (CIA).  The information provided by Chemsafe during an incident has proven to aid faster, more effective decision making, helping to resolve chemical incidents more quickly and safely.

The smoke plume being generated by the fire also presented a significant threat, due to its proximity to local residents and the road infrastructure, with the A419 running directly past the entrance to the site.

As a result of the call to Chemsafe, NCEC’s emergency responders were able to ensure the emergency services were equipped with all the information they needed to manage and resolve the incident quickly and safely. 

NCEC manages hundreds of incidents a year for the emergency services and the Chemsafe scheme has provided cost savings during incident response, shown to be at least £10m per year. The role the Chemsafe scheme plays in chemical incident resolution continues to demonstrate the importance of investment in this service, helping to protect both the emergency services and the public.

Chemsafe was established to protect emergency responders and minimise the impact of an incident on people, property and the environment. In this recent example due to the chemicals involved there was significant risk to the emergency services at the scene, the nearby public including road users, local air quality, the surface environment (through dangerous run off of contaminated waters used to fight the fire) and the commercial interests of both the businesses on site and nearby (due to disruption to road infrastructure).

If you work for the emergency services and would like to get a better understanding of how you can get the most from the Chemsafe scheme, please contact ncec@ricardo-aea.com

1. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/hydrofluoricacid/basics/facts.asp