Response – The Great European Stink

Response – The Great European Stink

Now, this blog post is a bit delayed, more than a bit actually, nearly a month! But as well as my occasional musings on resilience and emergency planning, this blog is also a mechanism to capture the incidents that I’ve been involved with.

Just a week after the Helicopter crash, our team was called into action again, for a chemical release in Rouen, northern France.

Now, there are thousands of chemicals out there, probably more than that, so I’m not going to claim to know the response precautions for every one, however, thanks to some research I did following this episode of TV’s F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I did have a basic knowledge of Mercaptan! The smell that they add to odourless natural gas as a safety measure to identify leaks.

A quick call to expert colleagues in the Health Protection Agency (or Public Health England depending on when you’re reading this) confirmed my suspicions. Mercaptan is detectable by the human nose at around 0.27-0.93 parts per billion, whereas exposure limits are around 0.5 parts per million, and given the gas has diluted considerably as it crossed the Channel, no health concerns were likely; and the work for our team was relatively short-lived.

Meanwhile, in Norway, another incident was creating fumes of a different kind, as 27 tonnes of goats cheese caught fire!

These incidents gave me the impetus I needed to start a personal project to gather information on these ‘low end of the scale’ incidents. I believe that perfecting the response to smaller incidents will make responding to larger incidents more habitual.

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