maandag 18 april 2016

Clear agreements – in case things go wrong

Chemelot is a site with chemical plants that process hazardous substances. These substances pose a risk to employees and local residents. Learn how rescuers are prepared for incidents.

Safety Region of South Limburg
Chemelot cannot decide how to deal with incidents as it pleases. This is regulated by law and the so-called safety region (veiligheidsregio) has a role in this (according to the Dutch Safety Regions Act, Wet veiligheidsregio’s). A safety region is an area of cooperation in the field of firefighting, emergency response, crisis management, medical services and public safety and security. There are 25 safety regions in the Netherlands and Chemelot is located in the Safety Region of South Limburg (Veiligheidsregio Zuid-Limburg).

Emergency Response Plan
The safety region is obliged to draft emergency response plans (following the Dutch Safety Regions Act) for facilities where certain quantities of hazardous substances are present (according to the Dutch Decree Risk Serious Accidents, Besluit Risico Zware Ongevallen, BRZO).

Chemelot is such a BRZO location and therefore the Safety Region of South Limburg recently published the "Emergency Response Plan Chemelot 2015" (Rampbestrijdingsplan Chemelot 2015, RBP Chemelot). Additionally, Chemelot has its own Emergency Response Plan. These plans describe how to prepare for potential disasters such as fire, explosion, and toxic disasters.
Remarkably, these plans apply to all plants at the site, large and small, as Chemelot is considered a single 'facility'. There are no regulations that vary by plant, since this could easily lead to misunderstandings.

Proprietary fire brigade
Chemelot has its own fire brigade, which is equipped with a control room, special equipment, and qualified personnel; it is one of the largest professional fire brigades in the Netherlands. In the event of a (potential) disaster this brigade takes the first steps. The regional fire department is alerted and takes over the operational command.

Furthermore, Chemelot’s fire brigade installs an Emergency Response Center (Actiecentrum), which is staffed by experts from the companies at the site. This center deals with the effects of the incident on the plants and their employees on the site.

In acute cases, Chemelot’s fire brigade is authorized to provoke an air raid siren in certain areas around the site, to activate NL-Alert, and to activate page 112 of Teletext L1 with emergency information. In case of fire or toxic disasters the typical message is: "Stay inside, close windows and doors, and turn off mechanical ventilation."
If needed, siren alarm is also given at Chemelot; employees are instructed how to act in such a situation.

Chemelot’s fire brigade can also shut down rail, road and shipping traffic.

Furthermore, Chemelot’s fire brigade may request assistance from the government: special equipment, firemen, and ambulances. However, Chemelot’s fire brigade also provides support to the government, for instance in case of transportation incidents involving hazardous substances.

GRIP structure
In the Netherlands incidents are dealt with according to the so-called Coordinated Regional Incident Response Procedure (Gecoördineerde Regionale Incidentbestrijdingsprocedure, GRIP). Depending on the (expected) size of an incident more parties and additional assistance get involved (upscaling).
Chemelot follows this procedure too, which prevents that arrangement must be made during an incident.*

There are four GRIP levels:
  • GRIP 0: the effects are limited to the scene of the incident; Chemelot’s fire brigade is in operational command; possibly Chemelot’s Emergency Response Center is installed, but further upscaling is not required
  • GRIP 1: the effects are (stille) limited to Chemelot, but effects outside the site are to be expected; the regional fire department is in operational command from the command post at the scene (Commando Plaats Incident, COPI), in consultation with Chemelot’s Emergency Response Center
  • GRIP 2: there are effects on Chemelot, but also outside the site measures must be taken; operational command by the regional operational team (regionaal operationeel team, ROT), in consultation with the COPI
  • GRIP 3: effects outside the site, within one municipality (Sittard-Geleen or Stein); operational command by the ROT; administrative command by the municipal policy team (gemeentelijk beleidsteam, GBT)
  • GRIP 4: effects outside the site in several municipalities; operational command by the ROT; administrative command by the regional policy team (regionaal beleidsteam, RBT).
ROT and RBT operate from the Reporting and Coordination Center (Meld en Coördinatiecentrum, MCC) at Maastricht.

For example, the following things are dealt with in the GRIP structure:
  • Diversion of traffic by the police
  • Evacuation of locations (following advice of the regional fire department or the police) and evacuation of areas (by order of the mayor).

Emergency communication and information exchange
The government is responsible for the emergency communication about an incident at Chemelot. However, Chemelot’s information officer is available for providing the required information – relevant information must be published as soon as possible.

To exchange information quickly and practical (via tools like explosion-proof walkie-talkies), the RBP Chemelot prescribes the METHANE standard:
  • Major incident: date & time, GRIP level
  • Exact location: involved building/facility/plant
  • Type of incident: the nature of the incident
  • Hazard: nuisance/noise/odor/explosion/health danger; product data of involved substances (substance name, quantity, UN number/CAS number, most important characteristics of the substance); threatened area, both present and potential
  • Access: best route for emergency services to access the site, obstructions and bottlenecks to avoid; weather situation on scene (wind direction, temperature, wind speed)
  • Number of causalities: dead and injured on scene
  • Emergency services required: which services are already on scene, and which others are required.
In order to obtain adequate information, gas specialists can carry out measurements on and around Chemelot.

Practice, practice!
There are regular exercises, to prevent that the RBP Chemelot is no more than just a dusty document.

December 4, 2015, the regional station L1 broadcasted a (Dutch) documentary about Chemelot’s fire brigade:

The “Emergency Response Plan Chemelot 2015” by the Safety Region of South Limburg is available online (only in Dutch) via
This is a repost of my (Dutch) February 15, 2016 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.

* The RBP Chemelot is about (serious) calamities, but can also be used for (less serious) incidents or for prevention.

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