Emergency crews collaborate at Buncefield training exercise

Firefighters douse one of the massive fuel tanks at the Buncefield depot.

Firefighters douse one of the massive fuel tanks at the Buncefield depot.

A major emergency training exercise at the BP Hemel oil terminal, Hemel Hempstead, has been declared a huge success by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Exercise Titan, a multi-agency exercise testing the rapid response to an emergency, involved 15 fire crews, including teams from three neighbouring counties, other emergency services, partner agencies and BP staff.

“Everyone involved from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, BP and other blue light colleagues worked as a team to deal with the scenario, which started as a leak of 3.5 million litres of jet fuel from a tank and escalated,” explained Director of Community Protection and Chief Fire Officer, Roy Wilsher, who was at the scene.

“I was very impressed with the response to this demanding exercise, which included an explosion, dealing with casualties and coping with a failed water supply.”

Some 15 fire appliances were on scene, including the Command Support Unit and three high volume pumps and crews from neighbouring counties Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Also involved in the exercise, which took place on Thursday 5 June, were the Environment Agency, police counter-terrorism officers and volunteers from the Plymouth Brethren providing refreshments for the 100-plus participants.

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, added, “I know we all hope that we never face another incident like the 2005 Buncefield fire, but if we did, training exercises like this ensure that Hertfordshire’s emergency response is the best it can be.”

A BP spokesman said, “It is important that we have the opportunity to test our emergency procedures in as realistic a situation as possible. Safety of our staff and of our nearby neighbours are always our first priority.”

The terminal reopened in April 2008 following an explosion and fire at the nearby Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd (HOSL) depot in December 2005 – the largest peacetime fire.