People often ask me to tell them about a “typical” emergency call received by the NCEC. I imagine people think we are inundated with tanker crashes and major incidents featuring on the 24-hour rolling news channels. My answer is there is no typical type of call – although we do deal with those incidents of course – but every day is different and in reality many calls are not as high profile as those you might imagine. That doesn’t mean they are any less important, to our client or the caller.
Our calls generally depend on the type of client we’re representing. For an agrochemical distributor we might hear about a fertiliser leak into a watercourse. Callers are particularly worried about a child or pet following exposure to the product (I’ll let you guess which of those they are most worried about!) For our Fire Service customers the calls are often more serious in nature; specially trained officers in the Fire Service are these days very skilled in dealing with low level chemical incidents. And for chemical manufacturers the type of call usually depends on what the product is and where it goes in the supply chain (and the world).
This sheer diversity of incident types highlights an important point: responsibility for safe handling of chemicals, and risk of chemical incidents, does not just rest with chemical companies. Electronics companies try to reduce risk of fires involving Lithium batteries . Farmers worry about coming into contact with chemicals, such as Hydrogen Sulphide formed in their slurry pits . Port operators have to handle chemicals, and when a spill could cause the port to close and a container ship to be delayed, this can cost millions.
So there is not typical type of call, and we’re happy with this. It certainly gives our Emergency Responder team a bit of variety! And it gives us wide and far-reaching experience across a number of incident types. Whatever the need from manufacturer to waste disposal; whatever the caller from tanker driver to medic; whatever the language from Czech to Cantonese; we are waiting round the clock to see what the next call will bring…