Staff Reporter

Chemical Emergency Response Centre being set up by the Department of Factories and Boilers

The centre will help fire personnel and the police deal with chemical emergencies.

KOCHI: Consider these facts - Ernakulam district has the most number (21) of industrial installations in the State categorised as major accident hazard (MAH) dealing with hazardous chemicals.

About 800 tanker lorries carrying petroleum products traverse through the roads of Kochi daily. Thirty-five tanker lorries filled with ammonia and another 50 with hazardous chemicals move in and out everyday. A United Nations-assisted project has found Kochi among the six high risk industrial areas in the country.

How equipped is Ernakulam to cope with a chemical disaster? The response is unlikely to evoke much confidence.

It is in this context that the Chemical Emergency Response Centre (CHEMREC) being set up by the Department of Factories and Boilers at Kakkanad assumes significance. Presently, there is no specialised agency to deal with chemical emergencies, apart from a district crisis group headed by District Collector, which deals with accidents involving leak of chemicals or acids.

Many MAH factories have their own fire and safety wing to deal with minor emergencies within their premises. If greater assistance is needed the group of factories in the neighbourhood pool their facilities, B. Ummar, Senior Joint Director Factories and Boilers and secretary of the crisis group, said.

Crisis group acts

When the emergency is graver posing safety concerns for the people, the crisis group gets activated. A link is established between the control rooms of the police and the one opened at the Collectorate to coordinate activities. Though fire services and police continue to be the first responders, both are ill-equipped to cope with a major chemical disaster.

The proposed CHEMREC has provision for imparting specialised training to fire and police personnel in dealing with chemical emergencies, he said. The training/seminar hall with the seating capacity for 50 would be utilised for this.

Crisis management

The centre, coming up at 20 acres, is expected to be completed in two years. It will establish an effective system for chemical crisis management thus lending support to the crisis group. It will provide a link between the accident site and expert groups minimising the impact of any emergency.

24X7 control room

The centre will operate a full-fledged control room round the clock. It will have a direct communication link with MAH factories having their own fire and safety department. The centre will have a toll free number and a complete computerised database of potential hazards in factories, chemicals handled and produced and chemicals in transit.

“In due course the Centre proposes to intervene in road accidents involving vehicles carrying hazardous chemicals. We will study the models in other States to deal with accidents in the transportation of chemicals and put in place a proper arrangement,” Mr. Ummar said.

The centre will have facilities for field monitoring of spills/release into atmosphere of chemicals or acids, predicting its impact and apprising public on precautionary measures.

It will have an emergency response van (ERV) with specialised equipment. The ERV will be loaded with chlorine and ammonia kits for emergencies.

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