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New equipment welcomed by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

Date : 09 January 2019


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East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is welcoming a decision to fund new equipment which will help detect certain types of gas.

The equipment is being funded by the Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) following the Birling Gap incident, where a number of people fell ill.

An official SRF debrief took place immediately after the incident and made a number of recommendations. An SRF Lessons Identified report has now been released (9 January 2019) into the response to the incident, setting out the measures the Forum has taken. It also highlights areas of good practice during the response.

George O’Reilly is Sussex Resilience Forum Response Group Chair and a Group Manager at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

He said:

“The incident at Birling Gap in the summer of 2017 was unprecedented in Sussex and caused a significant number of people distress. While it is highly unlikely that another incident of its kind would occur, it is vital that all agencies continue to be ready to respond.

The Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) has agreed funding for the equipment which will allow for the capture and testing of gases. The move is part of a range of measures which have been carried out by emergency services, local authorities and Government agencies.”

The equipment 

The equipment being purchased is called a Photo Ionisation Detector (PID). 

It can analyse what are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) using a library of over 200 compounds built into the equipment. It can also collect a sample of the VOC (gas cloud) by using a collection bag ready for further testing by experts.

What’s a Volatile Organic Compound?

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids.  VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. 

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. 

All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

The SRF report can be found here.

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