Welcome to the NCEC Newsletter and thank you for reading 

In this issue, we announce the dates of the Global Chemical Congress for 2016, provide a review of Hazmat 2015, highlight the importance of the public and private sector working together with a case study featuring Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. We also highlight the changes to non-geographic telephone numbers.

I hope you enjoy reading our newsletter and if there is anything you would like us to feature in the coming months, then please feel free to contact me.

Daniel Haggarty of the National Chemical Emergency Centre

  Dan Haggarty
  Business Area Manager
  National Chemical Emergency Centre 

    E: ncec@ricardo-aea.com
    T: +44 (0) 1235 753654




Interesting calls 


Chlorine leak




NCEC often receives calls from the emergency services attending leaks of swimming pool chemicals. Normally, these are small routine incidents. However a fire and rescue service (FRS) recently attended a large-scale incident.

There had been a suspected release of chlorine gas at a swimming pool with around 40 people having been exposed. The release was large enough that the casualties reported seeing a green gas in the air.  The incident commander wanted to know if the casualties could be given water to drink to alleviate their burning throats and mouths.

NCEC’s emergency responder confirmed that it was safe to give the casualties water and relayed the hazards, properties and reactivity of chlorine. They also confirmed that the green gas seen by the casualties was consistent with chlorine gas.

NCEC’s emergency responders frequently deal with large-scale chemical releases that have caused multiple casualties and can provide responders on scene with detailed technical advice to help them manage high-impact incidents.




swimming pool chemical leak


Inverted tanker


An FRS crew was sent to an incident involving a tanker that had left the road, overturned and come to rest near a primary school. All of the vehicles wheels were in the air, but the tank was intact. However, the emergency services were concerned that the tank might rupture from the damage it had sustained.

The vehicle was carrying flammable kerosene fuel. The FRS crew was considering drilling a hole in the tank to decant the contents before righting the vehicle, in case it broke open while being moved.

NCEC’s emergency responder explained that the tank was probably double skinned, which would make it less likely to rupture, but the heat from the drill could ignite the kerosene. The FRS crew members concluded that decanting the contents themselves was not practical and asked for assistance with contacting a specialist recovery firm that could help.

NCEC’s emergency responder provided contact details for companies that could recover the vehicle, and the FRS arranged for a specialist team to attend and help to right the vehicle.

Regardless of how precarious your incident scene might be, NCEC is always available to discuss



overturned chemical tanker


Homemade still


While using an illegal, home-made still, a student in a hall of residence was overcome by the vapours produced. The student had been hospitalised and was receiving treatment.

A fire officer en route to the scene had been told that the still contained methanol and was seeking advice on how to dispose of it. NCEC’s emergency responder explained that the still probably contained ethanol, contaminated with methanol, a toxic by-product of distillation. The student was most likely attempting to remove the methanol to make the alcohol fit for consumption. NCEC’s emergency responder provided the contact details of a number of specialist companies that could dismantle and dispose of the makeshift still.

NCEC regularly receives calls from the emergency services regarding illicit laboratories operated by all sorts of people ranging from amateur distillers to bomb makers.

Regardless of how a laboratory is being used, NCEC’s emergency responders have the technical knowledge to keep personnel at the scene safe and keep details of specialists that can help to remediate the scene.


  homemade still  

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Leicestershire FRS case study


Leicester FRS case study







Leicestershire FRS case study


Leicestershire FRS presented an interesting and though-provoking case study at this year’s annual Hazmat event. It highlighted opportunities for enhanced working between the public and private sectors to reduce the risk to businesses. The subject of the case study was an organisation that lost production facilities and associated business, worth £750,000, as a result of a chemical incident. Subsequent review of the incident highlighted opportunities for actions that could have been taken before the event by the emergency services and the organisation that would have helped to conclude the incident more quickly and with less damage being sustained.

Incident details

  • At 06:30 Leicestershire FRS was informed about smoke coming from the offices of a factory building – fire alarm activated.
  • Two crews mobilised. Crews identify chemical haze.
  • At around 07:30 a small leak (5 litres) of nitric acid identified near chemical wet room.
  • Two more pumps and a hazardous materials officer requested to attend the scene.
  • Hazmat officer gathered information about the other chemicals in the vicinity, this included potassium hydroxide – exothermic reaction possible. Fuming nitric acid is extremely hazardous – corrosive, toxic and a strong oxidiser.  
  • On-site spill team attempted to use neutralising granules to absorb the spill, but it ran under a nearby cabinet and a small fire started. Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers were ineffective and the fire grew. Spill team advised to evacuate the building. No water to be used. DECISION POINT 1
  • Fire crews pulled back and established a 100m cordon. On-site specialists advised that there was a cylinder store near the fire.
  • Fire developed extremely quickly. At around 08:30, eight crews requested and police, ambulance and Public Health England all advised. Local school advised to keep windows and doors closed and children inside.
  • A large number of chemicals could have been involved, but no exact details were available. MITIGATION POINT 1
  • Environment Agency advised that fire-water runoff had contaminated a local stream. Firefighters used jets to cool tank store only.
Lessons learned
  1. Decision Point 1. Fighting the fire at this point with a large amount of water would have resulted in a strong reaction and destroyed the chemical store. However, it may may have saved the wider facility because the extra water would have diluted the nitric acid and prevented it from accelerating the fire. Limited information from the company, conflicting information and no planned response slowed down the decision-making here.
  2. Mitigation point 1 – information (Safety Data Sheets) for the on-site chemicals store onsite was held in the evacuated building, no second source of information was available at the gatehouse - an obvious store for information.
  3. Points 1 and 2 would have allowed Leicestershire FRS to aggressively attack the fire with speed and weight, and could have limited the damage and wider impact of the incident
NCEC estimates that the cost of the incident to Leicestershire FRS based on the number of vehicles and personnel involved would have been over £30,000. 



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Poison centre data harmonisation


Hazmat practitioners forum



NCEC and Amec Foster Wheeler carried out a study on behalf of the European Commission to review the requirements of poison centre data harmonisation.

The published study is available from the European Commission's website. It provides information on the positive and negative impacts of a harmonised notification system for data to be transmitted to poison centres in accordance with Article 45 of the European regulation on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP).

We have also produced our own summary document of the study, which is available on our website. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding poison centres or global chemical regulations.


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Hazmat 2015 review

  Hazmat practitioners forum  

Hazmat 2015 was a great success. Delegates particularly commented on the benefit of the workshop and parallel presentation sessions.

The conference was opened by Dave Walton, Hazmat Lead at the Chief Fire Officers Association and a long-term supporter of the event. Angus Sangster from London Fire Brigade then gave a presentation on emerging hazards in waste and recycling facilities. This was followed by an update on dangerous goods by John Mairs from the Department for Transport. Then, NCEC’s Matt Hawes, who launched a consultation on proposed Emergency Action Code (EAC) changes to improve firefighter safety.

As a result of his popular presentations last year, Mike Callan returned and presented on responding to energy emergencies - providing delegates with links to many freely available internet resources. The morning was rounded off by Doc Holliday who provided an update on the National Operational Guidance programme.


In the afternoon, delegates were able to choose from five workshop sessions, which covered hazard categorisation (field chemistry); chemical, biological radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNe) and hazardous forensics; practical spill response; practical vapour detection; and, the most popular session, the case study presented by Leicestershire FRS.

Day two started with a series of parallel presentations enabling delegates to see four of the eight presentations on offer. These included a session on hydrogen fluoride delivered by NCEC senior emergency responder, Tom Baker; a review of air quality cells by Louise Uffindell from Public Health England; chemical reactions from NCEC’s chemical training specialist, Simon Jones; Ebola: frontline detection in Sierra Leone by Simon Weller from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl); and the environmental impact of firefighting foam by Matt Gable from the Environment Agency. According to delegate feedback, the highest rated presentation was the one on hydrogen fluoride. We will soon be making this available on a pay-per-view basis via our website along with other selected presentations from the event.


On the afternoon of day two, a group scenario was presented jointly by NCEC and Tactical Hazmat. This provided an excellent opportunity for discussion and sharing best practice. The afternoon was concluded by Chris Case and his amateur pyrotechnics, and use of detection, identification and monitoring (DIM) equipment, which was a fantastic end to the event - or, as one delegate put it, ‘explosive!’. 


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Global Chemical Congress 2016

  Hazmat practitioners forum  

We are pleased to announce the dates for the 2016 Global Chemical Congress, which will take place in Windsor, England.

The event will take place on 20 and 21 April 2016. Once again, it will provide a wealth of information on chemical regulations, emergency response and crisis management. For the draft agenda and further information click here.


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Changes to non-geographic phone numbers

  non-geographic numbers  

From 1 July 2015, Ofcom is introducing a change to non-geographic numbers in relation to how charge details are communicated to callers. Although the price will not be changing, it must be made clear on any advertising how much the call will cost.

For some time, we have been moving away from our 0870 numbers we used to use. However, due to the latest Ofcom changes, we believe there is further reason to do this more quickly. We already have new local geographic numbers available for customers to use. The 0870 numbers will be phased out gradually giving you time to change any paperwork or placards over the next year. Please contact us to find out about our new numbers.

For more information about the changes, please take a look at the UK Calling website which has been set up by Ofcom. http://www.ukcalling.info/


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Article 8 compliance alert service

  Article 8 compliance  


To help you comply with the European energy savings regulations, such as the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), Ricardo-AEA has developed an alert service to keep you informed of the latest information.

To view more information about this service, please click here.


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Questions about NCEC

Would you like more information about NCEC?

Email: ncec@ricardo-aea.com or Tel: +44 (0) 1235 753654