Fire crews in chemical exercise

Emergency services at work during training exercise

Firefighters are well prepared to protect the people of Shropshire after their expertise was tested at a major chemical spillage training exercise in the county last night, (Thursday) said a senior fire chief.

The emergency services responded when the alarm was raised at 7pm in a scenario involving a chemical plume rising out of a storage yard at Ruyton X1 Towns after a fork lift truck driver crashed dropping his hazardous cargo.

Firefighters from across the county working with colleagues from Chirk were joined by the specialist environment unit, incident command team and safety teams from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service at the training incident at Pentons storage yard.

Ambulance, police and the Environment Agency all co-ordinated their joint approach to deal with the potential hazard which had injured three workers – roles played by members of the St John Ambulance.

The victims were rescued and treated at the scene as incident commanders worked on identifying the potentially deadly chemical and set up an exclusion zone around the scene.

Two firefighters wearing green "gas tight" suits made of Tychem, a specialist material to resist a chemical attack, took a sample of the mystery liquid to identify it on site via a computer scanning for information from 5,000 known chemicals.

Meanwhile a decontamination unit is set up at the scene to remove the chemical from both the injured and their rescuers.

It is all part of ongoing training by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure fire crews are well prepared to respond to hazardous life threatening chemical, biological or nuclear incidents anywhere within the county or across the UK.

Senior Fire Commander John Das Gupta said it was through these training exercises that the emergency services could test their capability in dealing with life threatening incidents.

"The first priority is to rescue the casualties which we did within ten minutes of the incident happening. Then we re-assessed the situation, identified the spillage area, sealed it off and worked with other agencies to ensure public safety. This is valuable training for all of us to ensure that we are well prepared to protect the people of Shropshire."

A fire crew from Baschurch was on duty to provide fire and rescue cover in and around Oswestry during the training exercise.

Fire and Rescue staff from fire stations at Telford, Tweedale, Albrighton, Oswestry and Chirk were at the scene.

9th October, 2009