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It could have been a scene from a disaster movie. One of REMONDIS’ trucks suddenly veers out of control at REMONDIS Industrie Service’s branch in Lübeck and crashes into a stack of liquid containers. An employee standing close by is buried under the containers and hydrofluoric acid begins to escape. The driver of the truck is slumped over the wheel of his vehicle, unconscious after having suffered a heart attack. A third employee rushes to help his colleague trapped under the containers and breathes in the fumes. He, too, loses consciousness and collapses to the ground in an area that is difficult to spot – with his face dangerously close to the leaking chemical. The firefighters arrive within just a few minutes of the alarm going off and rush over to the scene of the accident to help all those injured. It soon becomes clear, however, that this is – thank goodness – just an exercise to hone the firefighters’ skills and that the casualties are actors simply playing their part.
What the fire brigade found when they arrived could have been a scene from a disaster movie – fortunately, though, it was just an exercise
The emergency call was put through to the plant’s fire station in Lübeck on Thursday, 13 October 2016, at 3.03pm. The whole team of firefighters responded to the call immediately. According to the information given, there had been an accident at REMONDIS Industrie Service’s branch in Steinbrückerstraße 10 that involved a number of casualties and a dangerous chemical leak. At this point, the professional firefighters do not know how many people are involved nor that this is an exercise organised by their bosses.
“Thanks to such exercises, it’s good to know that the Lübeck fire brigade is able to deal with whatever disaster is thrown at them.”
René Jurock, REMONDIS manager responsible for the north
Several fire engines and ambulances are sent straight to the site equipped with a wide range of safety gear including full body protection, breathing apparatus and decontamination equipment. The “scene of the accident” had in fact been carefully planned and set up by REMONDIS and the chief fire officer and combined a number of possible emergencies.
The scene that the firefighters were confronted with – i.e. the combination of a person contaminated with hydrofluoric acid (here an actor covered in water dyed with green food colouring), an accident with a high pressure vacuum truck with an unconscious driver and containers leaking a dangerous and toxic liquid – would in fact be highly unlikely. The exercise also involved them setting up a decontamination area for the fire and rescue workers after their work had been completed as well as to cordon off the scene of the accident. They needed just under an hour to rescue the people and make the area safe.
“All in all, everything went very well. There are a few places where we can still improve our performance. And we were able to test some new technology,” commented the firefighter instructor, Henning Witten, summarising the exercise whilst the fire crew were being hosed down in the decontamination tent. René Jurock, REMONDIS manager responsible for the north, was also happy with how everything went: “We very much hope that we’ll never have to deal with such an accident. Thanks to such exercises, though, it’s good to know that the Lübeck fire brigade is able to deal with whatever disaster is thrown at them.”