On December 19 2011, a chemical incident occurred at the Nuplex chemical plant in Wangaratta. The incident was caused by an uncontrolled chemical reaction in a reactor vessel, which released an extremely odorous vapour in the surrounding community.
Approximately 100 households evacuated with many relocating to a relief centre but although an odour was present, detection equipment did not find any measurable amounts of toxic emissions in the air.
The Fire Services Commissioner requested the Emergency Services Commissioner undertake an assessment of the incident.
The Terms of Reference for the assessment included:
- The Control Strategies implemented by the Incident Controller for the multi-agency incident
- The effective issuing of community advice and warnings. In particular, the means by which evacuation was conducted and the lessons learnt from this action
- The issues identified in relation to interoperability during this multi-agency operation
The review indicated that the Emergency Management Team (EMT) formed as part of the incident response worked well with public safety as the highest priority. The team continued through the recovery/clean-up phase.
The review also identified that the issuing of advice and warnings to the community about the incident was delayed, and bushfire warning templates were used instead of hazmat-specific templates.
New templates have since been included into the statewide formal warning system.
The review was presented to senior emergency management representatives by members of the multi-agency Emergency Management Team on July 27 2012.
The response to the Nuplex chemical incident has also been developed as a case study that is being shared across the emergency management sector as part of the sector’s training and exercising regime.
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