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Inglewood petrol tanker rollover – case study
The ‘Learning from incidents’ section of Brigade magazine includes case studies of major incidents researched by Fire & Emergency Management. Here, we analyse the Inglewood petrol tanker rollover in April 2016.
A case study is an explanatory story based on a real-life incident that looks at what happened and why it happened. The aim is for people to learn from the case study so they improve their decision making in time-critical situations.
If you have any observations or initiatives you would like to submit from your own experiences in emergency management, visit the Observation Sharing Centre
In Inglewood located in the Shire of Loddon, an unplanned power outage was affecting the town when a B-double petrol tanker crashed and dislodged two power lines. It then rolled on to its side and stopped in the front yard of a property, partially blocking the Calder Highway.
Brick pillars from the fence of the property tore open the fuel tank and more than 40,000 litres of petrol and diesel spilled on to the Calder Highway and into the surrounding drains.
Emergency services were called and responded immediately to the incident. Twenty eight people were evacuated from their homes. Around 600 households in the area were left without electricity for 24 hours.
Although there wasn’t a fire, the potential for ignition was significant during the emergency.
On 6 April 2016 at 7.45pm, emergency services were responded to a reported motor vehicle accident, with possible people trapped. The first crews on scene reported that the incident was actually a fuel tanker which had rolled and ruptured, leaving significant amounts of fuel on the highway and spilling into the surrounding drainage system. Police, Ambulance Victoria and Inglewood and Bridgewater brigade crews were on scene within minutes.
By 7.50pm, the driver was seen to out of the truck and needing medical attention. Environment Protection Authority, Powercor and SES were also requested, because if the power was came back as scheduled at 8.30pm the result would have been catastrophic. At 7.55pm, Powercor confirmed power would remain off until the area was safe.
The rostered duty officer was quickly notified by the incident controller and as a result an operations officer was sent to provide support to the incident controller. Specialist resources were requested throughout the night and into the next day. They included: MFB’s bulk B-class foam POD and ultra-heavy pumper, Scoresby brigade’s hose layer, Corio brigade’s heavy hazmat with AreaRAE monitor, Shepparton brigade’s heavy hazmat, Ballarat brigade’s hazmat, Golden Square brigade’s field operations vehicle, CFA District 2’s B-class foam trailer and private recovery operators.
A total of 11 brigades attended the incident which lasted throughout the night. CFA operations concluded at 7pm the next day.
Pre-planning The brigades’ planning, ongoing training and experience from past events all helped at this incident. The brigade had previously participated in exercises to consider the consequences of such an incident. The power outage in Inglewood resulted in a number of complications, such as the station door needing to be opened manually so that the trucks could be dispatched without delay. The pre-planning in this situation was invaluable.
First attack The crew was tasked to contain the spill with B-class foam to reduce the risk of ignition. It was identified that further training and familiarisation in the use of B-class foam in response to large fuel spills, including method of containment, would give crews a greater understanding in the use of foam equipment in similar situations.
Training would have helped those first on scene to apply the foam faster to the affected areas. As practical training in B-class foam is currently unavailable in CFA because of the environmental impact, brigades will need to rely on theoretical training. A practical training program is currently under development and will be available soon.
Hazmat template warning The use and requirements of the hazmat warning template was essential in this incident in order to alert the community. Given the limited number of hazmat calls, it’s vital that warnings and advice officers are familiar with the specialist templates.
Speciality equipment AreaRAEs were used to remotely measure explosive mixtures in the atmosphere. These took some time to be established because the equipment is limited to major cities. In remote areas, it’s vital to make an early request for specialist equipment.
Establishing a staging area The staging area was established early. However, there was also a need for a staging location for the responding vehicles in the immediate area. Due to the size of the incident, numerous vehicles responded and there were many roadblocks in place. This caused difficulty in diverting large vehicles. The potential for mass convergence is often overlooked in planning for major events and should be carefully considered.
Catering Food services were set up early and close to the staging area for both the crews on scene and for the evacuated residents. Many people from Inglewood Lions Club and the local community cooked and served food. The Loddon South Group’s pre-plan for catering is a perfect example that pre-planning and coordination works well.
Effects of power outage on warnings With the extended power outage, the residents were not prepared for an emergency and warnings were ineffective at times as the residents’ mobile phone batteries became flat during the incident.
Communication There were a number of issues regarding communication, which are often experienced in multi-agency events. MFB couldn’t talk to VicFire because their own frequencies were out of range and they were not fitted with CFA radios. Local command facility radios failed because the backup power system eventually drained because of the length of the power outage.
Community The community expected that all properties would be door knocked during the incident to inform them face-to-face about what was happening. However, this wasn’t possible because there weren’t enough emergency services personnel. The decision was made to keep residents who were not in danger in place, based on the assumption they were receiving community messaging via various media.
Community members in immediate danger were evacuated to a safe location. These people were very thankful. Inglewood has a Victorian Fire Risk Register rating of extreme, so there have been many community education sessions held in Inglewood over the past five years focusing on bushfires. Also, a Community Information Guide (CIG) has been produced which includes information specific to bushfires. However, the affected community didn’t make the connection between the CIG emergency for bushfire and the tanker rollover incident.
It was also clear during the public meeting that the most residents weren’t aware of the CIG. This is a concern and a new approach needs to be developed to get communities involved in local emergency planning before incidents occur. This approach needs to be driven by the community for the community, with support from agencies.
An Inglewood community engagement day was held on 16 April 2016. Both CFA volunteers and staff attended every household in Inglewood, talking to residents and handing out emergency information from Red Cross, CFA and other agencies. CFA also set up an issues register so residents could pass on their comments post incident to the agencies involved. This was well received by the community.
The Environment Protection Authority ran a project at the local primary schools about their actions and the impact of the incident on the environment. The community appreciated this project. There was a series of community meetings on the days following the incident, to update people on the progress and steps towards recovery.The initial meeting, on the day after the accident, was attended by all agencies involved and 125 residents. It was clear there was a lack of community understanding of what to do during the incident. There was little understanding about how they could get information while the power was off and many residents’ mobile phones were flat. It was clear during the public meetings that the majority of residents weren’t aware of the community information guide even though there had been many community education sessions in Inglewood over the past five years.
Communities rarely understand how potentially dangerous these types of incident are and they would benefit from participating in a broader range of exercises.
- Incident leaders shouldn’t assume that community warnings will reach the affected community or that residents will know what to do.
- The incident controller must consider using community meetings, particularly when the incident is complex, long in duration and the outcomes will have an ongoing effect on the community.
- Catering, such as tea. coffee and light meals, needs to be considered for the community when residents haven’t had power for a long time.
- People will engage strongly in emergency management planning and information, when they are directly affected. This presents a huge opportunity to get key information to affected communities immediately after the incident, and engage them on a personal and emotional level to build knowledge in their community.
This incident could have been much worse for the community if the power had been on when the truck crashed. The brigades’ and district’s pre-planning, along with effective initial response, early size up and timely request for specialist support, ensured early containment of the incident, leading to the safety of the community.
To view a training exercise presentation on tanker rollover, click here.