Interesting Calls

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At NCEC we recieve calls through our Carechem 24 service from companies of variying sizes, different sectors and from all over the globe. 

See some of the calls that we recieve through our 24/7 service and how our specially trained Emergency Responders deal with the varying calls they recieve.

Corrosive substances at home

NCEC recently received a call regarding an incident where a member of the public had put three different drain cleaner products down a sink and had subsequently been taken to hospital with burns to their hands, throat and respiratory tract. The Fire Service was looking for information on the hazards of the products when mixed.

Our Emergency Responder advised that all of the products were corrosive and could cause burns. The Responder also advised that the products contained sulphuric acid, sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite that, when mixed, would produce chlorine gas. The Responder explained that the chlorine gas generated in a confined space was likely to have caused the irritation to the person’s throat and respiratory tract. It was recommended that the fire crew should wear gas-tight suits with breathing apparatus and chemical protective gloves.

Immediate access to expert advice on hazardous household chemicals means that dangers can be identified accurately, allowing incidents to be resolved quickly without compromising safety.

Product spill on carriageway

A fire officer called NCEC regarding an incident where two agricultural products mixed in solution had spilt onto a carriageway from an agricultural sprayer on the back of a tractor.

Our Emergency Responder advised that one of the products was toxic on prolonged exposure and could cause sensitisation on skin contact. The Responder explained that this hazard would be reduced because the two products had been diluted. However, it was pointed out that the mixture would be hazardous to the environment and should be prevented from entering watercourses. It was also suggested that the Environment Agency should be made aware of the spill.

Our Emergency Responders draw on their in-depth chemical knowledge and experience dealing with incidents to provide practical advice to protect the emergency services, members of the public and the environment.

Battery acid and bleach

NCEC recently received a call from a fire officer who was dealing with an incident at a domestic property where battery acid had reacted with bleach.

Our Emergency Responder advised that the reaction would emit chlorine, which is corrosive and toxic by inhalation. The Responder explained that chlorine could react with metals to produce hydrogen, which would be flammable and could cause an explosive atmosphere to form.

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

Chemical substances washed up on a beach      

NCEC recently received a call regarding debris, including a surface marker buoy, which had been washed up on a beach. The buoy was labelled with a UN number and the fire service was looking for advice regarding the hazards of the substance.

Our Emergency Responder identified the substance type from the UN number and provided advice on the flammability of the substance and the protective equipment required to handle the substance.

Immediate access to expert advice means that hazards can be accurately identified allowing incidents to be resolved quickly without compromising safety.

Responding to a small, indoor chemical incident

A fire officer called NCEC regarding an incident where a chemist had mixed a small quantity of potassium permanganate solution with temazepam. The reaction had created a small fire, which burnt the chemist’s hand and produced fumes that the chemist’s colleague had inhaled.

Our Emergency Responder advised that there was a possibility that hydrogen chloride could be present in the fumes, but this would be a small quantity given the small amounts mixed. The Emergency Responder further advised that the container be sealed and the building ventilated. The
Emergency Responder also suggested that the recommended level of personal protective equipment could be reduced because of the small quantities involved.

Our Emergency Responders draw on their in-depth chemical knowledge and experience dealing with incidents to provide practical advice, ensuring the safety of the emergency services and members of the public.

Tub full of hazardous substances found near bus stop

A tub, which appeared to be melting because of its contents, had been discovered near a bus stop by a member of the public. A fire officer dealing with the incident phoned NCEC for advice.

Our Emergency Responder suggested that the tub was probably melting as a result of an exothermic reaction. The Emergency Responder advised that the remnants of the tub should be treated as hazardous and suggested a route for disposal. The Emergency Responder was also able to advise
on the personal protective equipment that should be worn when handling the substance.

Immediate access to NCEC’s chemists ensures that the most appropriate actions and suitable precautions are taken.

Leaked battery acid       

A firefighter called NCEC for advice about an incident involving two fork-lift truck batteries that were being transported. The batteries had tipped over and had leaked acid. Most of the acid had been contained using absorbent granules, but approximately 2 litres was trapped in the shrink wrap of the pallet.

Our Emergency Responder talked the options through with the caller and they came to the conclusion that the safest option would be for the Fire Service to pierce the wrapping at arm’s length. The Emergency Responder advised placing a cordon around the area and suggested a method for piercing the wrapping that would reduce the risk of the acid splashing people.

Our Emergency Responders draw on their in-depth chemical knowledge and experience of dealing with incidents to provide practical advice, ensuring the safety of the emergency services and members of the public.

Exploding sodium

NCEC recently received a call from a fire officer regarding an incident where a member of the public had found 15 containers of sodium. The 50g containers had been left outside and showed signs of corrosion, burning and explosions. The person who discovered the containers had started to wash some of the product away with water, but this resulted in further explosions.

Our Emergency Responder advised that sodium is highly reactive with water and suggested placing the containers in a secondary container and covering the material with oil. The Emergency Responder also provided details of waste disposal companies that would be able to deal with the material.

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

Gas leak at supermarket

A Hazmat Officer contacted NCEC regarding an incident involving a gas leak at a supermarket. The leak had been described as a white/grey cloud and one man had been overcome by the fumes. A fridge had been identified as a potential source of the leak.

Our Emergency Responder advised that certain refrigerant gases could cause pulmonary oedema so it would be sensible to monitor the affected person for 48 hours. The Emergency Responder also provided advice on the hazards of the gas and decontamination of fire kit.

Immediate access to expert advice means that hazards can be accurately identified allowing incidents to be resolved quickly without compromising safety.

Exploding batteries        

A fire service station manager called NCEC for advice about a fire involving a number of lithium polymer batteries that were exploding and giving off noxious smoke.

Our Emergency Responder advised the caller that the primary hazard with this type of battery would be the reaction of metallic lithium with water. However, because there was unlikely to be very much lithium metal present (as they were lithium polymer batteries), water could still be used to extinguish the fire. In addition, as the batteries were already exploding and the use of water was unlikely to significantly increase any risk. The Emergency Responder advised of the likely products of the fire, and suggested that crews used breathing apparatus and that any run-off fire water be contained. The Emergency Responder also provided advice on cordon distances and the disposal of the batteries after the fire had been extinguished.

Immediate access to specialist knowledge means that incidents can be resolved safely and efficiently limiting damage to property, and protecting people and the environment.

Poisonous pumps

A fire officer called NCEC regarding an incident where firefighters had used pumps in a flooded pub cellar. Several hours after they had used the pumps, a firefighter had been overcome by fumes in the cellar. Subsequently, carbon monoxide levels were monitored and found to be high. The caller wanted to know if this would be due to exhaust gases remaining in the cellar 4 to 5 hours after the pumps had been switched off or if it was possible that carbon dioxide was leaking from a cylinder and was registering as carbon monoxide on the detection equipment.

Our Emergency Responder confirmed that carbon monoxide would have been present in the pump exhaust gases and could have remained in the cellar as it was quite small and not very well ventilated. The Emergency Responder advised that it was unlikely that the gas monitors would register carbon dioxide as carbon monoxide and suggested that the area should be ventilated and monitoring continued until the readings reached a safe level.

Immediate access to qualified chemists ensures that the most appropriate actions and suitable precautions are taken. Our Emergency Responders draw on their academic knowledge, industrial experience and specialist training at the NCEC to ensure the safety of emergency service personnel and members of the public.

Spill in school laboratory

NCEC was contacted following an incident in a school laboratory where a pupil had been splashed in the face while pouring a solution generated from an experiment involving nitric acid into an organic waste container. The pupil had been decontaminated and sent to hospital. However, a laboratory technician and three other pupils had received superficial splashes and were thought to have inhaled the vapours.

Our Emergency Responder advised that nitric acid is an oxidising agent and would react with organic chemicals. Advice was provided on first aid and decontamination of the technician and pupils, and on methods of decontaminating the laboratory and disposal of the resulting waste.

Immediate access to expert advice means that hazards can be accurately identified, allowing incidents to be resolved quickly without compromising safety.