Fire, fuel, injuries, twisted metal, panic, fear and utter chaos. Then sirens, firemen, water, police, safety and relief. This was the scene as Nonke Petroleum hosted its annual Emergency Simulation Drill on 19 August 2014. The simulation was held off the R102 in Umlilo, in northern Durban, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.
The purpose of this simulation is Health, Environment and Safety (HES) awareness and testing; an accident scene is re-enacted to test the emergency services response times and actions, ensuring everyone is prepared to handle a real emergency situation.
The road has been blocked of by RTI and Metro Police and the area cordoned off by SAPS to prevent civilians from wondering into the danger zone (note that in an emergency situation, this would take place after the incident reporting, but for has been arranged prior as a vital safety precaution). The SA Cane Growers Association and Airports Company South Africa were notified.
A van transporting sugar cane workers to their worksite smashed into the right hand side of the Nonke fuel tanker which is carrying 39,000 litres of Unleaded Petrol (ULP). The tank is ruptured and petrol catches alight and sends dark plumes of smoke high into the air.
The four injured workers are thrown onto the road, the van’s driver is trapped behind the wheel. The driver of the Nonke fuel tanker is unharmed but in a state of shock.
The Emergency Response
The tanker driver calls his control room who in turn alerts the emergency services. Seven minutes later, eThekwini Fire Department are the first to arrive and do a quick recon of the area and secure the area by laying a safety line.
The SAPS arrive and cordon off the area, forming a perimeter of officers. A representative from Nonke Petroleum arrives and assists in informing the Fire Department of the specifications of the product on board, contained in the tanker.
EMRS attend to the injured parties; the van driver has a blanket thrown over him to protect him as the firemen use the Jaws of Life on the damaged vehicle.
A small spill ignites and fires roar in the safety barrels and lit flares are thrown into the area.
The fire hoses foam over the fire and over the entire area, including the tanker, saturating it to prevent any further ignition of harmful liquids and vapours.
Once the flames are dowsed, the foot valve on the tanker gives way, and ULP is released, sending a steady flow of 3000 litres of fuel across the road.
Spilltech have been waiting in the wings and the eThekwini Health Departmentarrive and inspect the operation. The response team has sealed the leak and Spilltech moves in to clean up and protect the environment. An environmentally-friendly super absorbent substance (Biozorb) is used which prevents the petrol from soaking into the soil and having long lasting effects on the environment. The area is swept and bagged for disposal.
Lastly, Car Towing Services arrives to remove the damaged tanker.
The simulation was witnessed by about 40 observers all given the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and a running commentary of the emergency drill.
The entire operation was over in an hour and a quarter, due to the prompt response of all emergency personnel. The emergency services of Durban Metropolitan (eThekwini)are clearly on the ball and All Fuels applauds their superb response, and congratulates Nonke Petroleum on a well-executed exercise.
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