Interesting calls - September 2013

Chemical spill at a school

NCEC recently received a call from a fire officer who was dealing with a spill of bromine at a school. The 200ml bottle of bromine was stored in a chemical cupboard, but the lid was missing and staff had fitted a bung in its place. The warm weather had caused the bromine to expand and leak out of the bottle through the gaps around the bung. The fire officer was planning to send in a crew wearing gas-tight suits to move the bottle to a fume cupboard.

Our Emergency Responder advised that the fume cupboard would reduce the risks associated with the contents of the bottle. However, the Emergency Responder needed to check that the fume cupboard would scrub the fumes before releasing them to the atmosphere and that this would not contaminate it to the point where it could not be used again. The Emergency Responder also provided advice on the environmental hazards of bromine, cleaning up the spilt material and decontaminating the gas-tight suits.

Immediate access to expert advice, remote from the incident scene, means that the whole picture is considered. This allows incidents to be resolved in a way that reduces their impacts and the subsequent actions required.

Advising on a hydrochloric acid spill

A fire officer contacted NCEC about a 1,000-litre spill of hydrochloric acid. He was planning to use water sprays to knock down the vapour and was considering neutralising the spill with 1 tonne of soda ash.

Our Emergency Responder advised that water sprays could be used to reduce the spread of the vapour, but the water run-off would need to be contained as it would contain dilute hydrochloric acid. The responder also advised that the acid should not enter drains and suggested alternative methods for dealing with the spill.

Our Emergency Responders draw on their in-depth chemical knowledge and experience dealing with incidents to provide the emergency services with all the options for dealing with incidents and the necessary advice to select the most appropriate one.

Fuming chemicals in a laboratory

A fire officer called NCEC regarding an incident in a laboratory involving a mixture of three chemicals – sulphuric acid, ammonia and formic acid.

Our Emergency Responder provided advice on the likely composition of the fumes produced by this mixture and suggested that gas-tight suits and breathing apparatus be worn. The responder also discussed methods for cleaning up the mixture.

Immediate access to qualified chemists ensures that the most appropriate actions and suitable precautions are taken to resolve incidents efficiently and safely.