Since 2004, when NCEC expanded its operations to provide 24/7 chemical emergency response from its offices in Oxfordshire, there have been teams of chemical emergency responders working throughout the festive period.
2020 has brought numerous challenges but our emergency response team has continued to work as normal and will continue doing so over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years. The team working from office and others who are on call to support those in the office remotely, will be providing actionable advice directly to our callers – including the emergency services, and those transporting and working with chemical products across the world – to mitigate the impact of an incident.
You would be forgiven for thinking that our teams will have a quiet shift on Christmas Day. In reality, we receive a surprisingly high volume of calls, ranging from festive themed spills to potentially high-consequence industrial chemical emergencies.
On Christmas Day in 2016 we received several emergency calls. One unfortunate situation involved a gentleman in Spain whose plans to drive home for Christmas were interrupted by putting the wrong oil in his car. Fortunately, we offer 24/7 multilingual support over the festive period and were able to help the caller get the assistance he needed to fix his vehicle.
Later in the day, we received a call from a crew member of a chemical tanker that had suffered an engine failure in the English Channel. We were called to organise a response plan and notify the dedicated salvage company (quicker and cheaper than relying on the coast guard organised response). We were also contacted by a major European airport where a spill of a chemical product had occurred during a loading operation. Rapid response to such incidents is essential due to the knock-on effects of schedules being interrupted due to an area of the airport being cordoned off.
Previous holiday periods have been similarly eventful. One memorable incident involved a man who had chosen to spend Christmas Day laying a new carpet at his house. He was using a cyanoacrylate-based instant glue and managed to glue his hand to the carpet in the process. Our responder provided tips and tricks that he could use to free himself.
We are proud that our team of trained chemists is able to provide emergency advice that helps those involved in an incident to manage it quickly and safely. We also want to take this opportunity to thank those emergency responders who give up their family time to help our customers respond to chemical incidents safely and promptly, especially during such an unprecedented atmosphere that COVID-19 has brought.
Of course, while we will always be here to respond to any emergency chemical incidents, we hope that everyone, everywhere has a safe and incident-free festive holiday.