Interesting calls - November 2011

Exercise Argon Shield, Bristol

NCEC is available to help the emergency services in the planning and execution of training exercises involving hazardous materials. Recently, we received a call from the Avon Fire & Rescue Service which was running Exercise Argon Shield in Bristol city centre.
The exercise was a CBRN mass casualty incident with volunteers from Amputees in Action. Casualties were experiencing breathing difficulties and watering eyes following an explosion that released white gas. Our Emergency Responder helped the Hazardous Materials and Environmental Protection Officer (HMEPO) identify likely causes, based on the results from the Detection Identification and Monitoring (DIM) equipment, and provided appropriate hazard advice.

Realistic simulations provide excellent training opportunities and ensure that personnel are familiar with specialist equipment and the advice available from our Emergency Responders.

Major Warehouse Fire

NCEC recently received a call from a firefighter in relation to a warehouse fire involving a number of propane and acetylene cylinders, and 300-400 litres of hydrogen peroxide. The warehouse was well ablaze and producing thick black smoke. A 200-metre isolation zone had been established downwind.

Our Emergency Responder explained that hydrogen peroxide is an oxidiser and will cause the fire to burn more fiercely. He advised the caller to extend the 200-metre isolation zone to all sides of the blaze due to the presence of acetylene cylinders and suggested that local residents be advised to stay indoors with windows and doors closed. The Emergency Responder advised the caller to contact CHEMET for plume modelling and to notify the Health Protection Agency. The fire hospitalised eight people, four were seriously ill, including one who was taken by Air Ambulance to a London hospital.

Immediate access to NCEC's dedicated chemists ensures that the most appropriate actions and suitable precautions are taken. Our Emergency Responders are remote from the fire ground and not actively involved with the incident. Therefore, they are able to provide objective advice, taking all aspects of the required response into account.

Agrochemicals Cause Breathing Difficulties

NCEC recently received a call from a firefighter at an industrial estate where 11 people were complaining of breathing difficulties and dizziness. The Ambulance Service Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) was in attendance and required information about the respiratory effects of the chemicals involved.

Our Emergency Responder identified the products causing the symptoms as agricultural pesticides and herbicides, and gave hazard and first-aid advice as appropriate. He provided the details of the active ingredients and advised that further medical advice would be available from the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS). Only three people were sent to hospital for observation, the remainder were treated on scene.

Immediate access to the chemical hazards of products and appropriate first-aid advice enables the ambulance service to provide effective treatment sooner, prevents worsening of the casualty's condition and reduces the strain on hospital A&E departments.