Interesting calls - January 2011

Safe response to a fire

NCEC received a call from a factory worker who wanted advice about an uncontrolled fire in the factory store room. Approximately a tonne of the product was present in sealed paper bags.Our Emergency Responder confirmed that there were no casualties and recommended that the Fire Service were called as soon as possible to bring the fire under control. We made the caller aware of the hazards of the product and of the combustion products, advising that the area be evacuated and that people should remain upwind of the smoke and fumes.

It became clear that the caller wanted to try and tackle the fire themselves, although this was obviously beyond their expertise, since there was no sprinkler system and they only had access to hand-held fire extinguishers. Our Emergency Responder reiterated that the area should be evacuated and that the Fire Service should be called. The incident was dealt with and no-one was harmed.

Immediate access to advice like this means that the incident can be dealt with in a calm and informed manner, considering all the risks and thereby preventing injury.

Gas identification

NCEC received a call from a Fire & Rescue Service who were attending a fire at scrap yard involving a number of compressed gas cylinders. One of the cylinders involved could not be identified so we took a description of the size and colour of the cylinder, before using our industrial experience to identify it as one of two non-flammable, non-toxic gases which both posed an asphyxiation hazard. Our Emergency Responder familiarised the Fire Officer with the uses and hazards of both gases, and recommended water cooling from a safe distance.

Immediate access to advice like this means that appropriate precautions are taken for the level of risk posed, allowing the incident to be resolved thoroughly and efficiently.

Chemical reactions

NCEC received a call from an employee of a food manufacturer where a minor release of chlorine gas had occurred. The emergency services were in attendance and a number of people exposed to the gas had been taken to hospital. The building had been evacuated and the gas had now dissipated. The caller wanted to know if a reaction between three products supplied to the site could have produced the chlorine gas. Our Emergency Responder made the caller aware of the hazards of each of the products and stated that chlorine gas could be produced if one of the products came into contact with acid.

Immediate access to advice like this means that chemical incompatibilities are quickly identified, thus preventing a major incident endangering lives and property.