Interesting calls - November 2010

Bucket of cyanides found buried in residential garden

NCEC recently received a call from a Fire and Rescue Service after a bucket thought to contain solid cyanide was discovered buried in a residential garden. The previous occupant of the property had been involved in jewellery manufacture, in which sodium and potassium cyanides are used for electroplating and metal stripping processes. They had buried the bucket in the garden before moving out. The Fire and Rescue Service was in attendance and seeking advice.

Our Emergency Responder recommended that gas tight protective suits be worn as the exact identity of the chemical(s) had not been determined.  Our Responder then made the caller aware of possible risks such as the potential for the evolution of hydrogen cyanide gas upon contact with water, that the material was likely to be acutely toxic to aquatic organisms and that the effects of any release were likely to be severe and long-term. The fire fighters confirmed that the material was sealed in plastic bags and had not contaminated the environment. The incident was dealt with and no-one was harmed.

Immediate access to advice like this means the incident can be dealt with in a calm and informed manner with all the risks and environmental aspects considered.

Bubbling grass

NCEC recently received a call from a Fire and Rescue Service in attendance at an incident involving a product from 2 drums that had been spilled onto a paved and grassy area.  There appeared to be an ongoing reaction from the product that was bubbling on the grass. No persons to their knowledge had been in contact with the product and the area had been cordoned off as a safety precaution. It was reported that the product had been used to refurbish a children's play area. The Fire and Rescue Service had therefore taken the action of alerting the local hospital that an incident had occurred and the possibility of people self presenting to A&E due to the nature of the product.

Our Emergency Responder ensured that the necessary immediate actions had been carried out - such as evacuation of non-essential personnel from the area and that no persons had been in contact with the liquid product.  Our Responder then established the correct safety and technical information for the product that had been spilt, and advice was supplied to the Fire and Rescue Service on any hazards and the appropriate clean-up methods.

The incident was dealt with promptly, with no persons being harmed.

20 IBCs fall off vehicle in France

NCEC recently received a call regarding a spillage of Sodium Dimethyldithiocarbamate in France. A vehicle transporting 20 IBC's of the substance had left the road and all the IBC's had fallen off the vehicle (7 had emptied completely).

Our Emergency Responder called the Fire fighter on scene and gave advice on the hazards of material in the caller's own language. In particular our Responder checked that nobody was harmed and stressed the environmental toxicity of the material. Our Responder also liaised with our client advising them on the PPE necessary for clean up and familiarising them with the hazards of the material. Throughout the incident from the initial spill to the clean up our Responder was able to ensure necessary actions, such as protecting the environment and wearing the suitable PPE, were performed.

Having access to advice like this, in the native tongue of the person involved is key in reducing the risk an incident such as a spill or fire poses to the general public and the environment. It also means that Incidents can be dealt with calmly and efficiently.

Barn fire involving 10-13 tonnes of fertiliser

NCEC recently received a call regarding a barn fire involving 10 to 13 tonnes of fertiliser with a nitrogen content of 8%. The fire and rescue service were concerned as there was a special needs school in the path of the smoke plume and some of the children had asthma.

Our Emergency responder confirmed the necessary PPE and advised on the hazards associated with the substance and with its decomposition products. In particular our responder highlighted the risks of delayed effects and the possibility of hot spots developing within the fertiliser stack. Since the supplier of the fertiliser was one of our customers our responder was able to inform them of the incident straight away and confirm his advice with a product specialist.

The advice given by our Emergency Responder allowed the incident commander to make informed decisions on how best to protect the children in the special needs school and how best to handle the incident.

Corrosive substance leaking from broken down vehicle

NCEC recently received a call from a Police officer regarding the leakage of approximately 4 litres of UN 2531 from a broken down tanker whilst it was being jacked up at the roadside. Fire and Rescue Service personnel were in attendance.

Our Emergency Responder advised that UN 2531 is methacrylic acid, which is corrosive and so causes burns to skin and eyes. Furthermore, our Emergency Responder explained the Emergency Action Code (EAC, 3W) to the caller, with particular emphasis on the PPE required (liquid tight suits with breathing apparatus) and that the product can be violently or explosively reactive. Our Emergency Responder recommended that the spill be absorbed in dry sand and disposed of as hazardous waste, and so the incident was dealt with and no-one was harmed.