London Fire Brigade campaigns for safer use of acetylene cylinders
The campaign is to ensure the safe use, signage and storage of acetylene cylinders and to create a greater awareness of the additional dangers they bring when they are involved in fires and other incidents.
Alongside the awareness campaign, the Brigade has reviewed operational procedures and has procured new equipment to resolve acetylene cylinder incidents more effectively when they do occur.
The issue in London
In 2007 there were 18 incidents involving acetylene cylinders in the capital. The danger of acetylene cylinders exploding means a hazard zone of a 200 metre radius is initially set up every time they are reported to be involved in a fire. This can remain in place for more than 24 hours, causing major disruption to roads and public transport and evacuations from homes and businesses.
What they have done
The LFB led the way in establishing the Cylinders in Fire National Stakeholder Group. The group includes the British Compressed Gas Association (BCGA), the Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) amongst others. Its work has contributed to LFB strategy in preventing and actively managing acetylene cylinder incidents.
To raise the profile of the problem, the LFB hosted a Safe Cylinder Seminar in November 2006. Following this, in partnership with the Emergency Planning team at the London Borough of Islington, the LFB conducted an awareness campaign targeted at local businesses that use acetylene cylinders. An information leaflet developed as part of this work explains the risks involved with storing acetylene cylinders and the dangers associated with it in fires. It is now being distributed across London by the LFB and borough councils.
This prevention work was designed to reduce the numbers of incidents involving acetylene cylinders. Prior to the initiative the average frequency of acetylene cylinder incidents in London was every 14 days. By October 2009 this had dropped to one every 23 days.
To resolve incidents safely, quickly and effectively when they do occur, the LFB has reviewed operational procedure and looked at the way incidents are managed and what resources are available for them.
The LFB worked with the BCGA who assisted with specialist advice and helped deliver training to 48 specialist fire officers, to enable them to recognise and assess the condition of cylinders in incidents more effectively and at an earlier stage. Following a successful trail, the LFB has entered an arrangement with Network Rail, the Highways Agency and Transport for London and defence company QinetiQ using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). These ROVs can be used to safely assess and deal with the cylinders, allowing incidents to be resolved more quickly.
This work has reduced the disruption acetylene cylinder incidents cause. Prior to the initiative the average time taken to deal with an acetylene incident in London was 19 hours. By October 2009 this had been reduced to less than three hours.
The education and prevention work carried out so far by the LFB continues, with more London boroughs actively promoting the safety information on acetylene cylinder to businesses that use them.
The LFB will be working to promote the successful work that has been carried out in the capital and share its expertise with other fire and rescue services.
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