INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEMThe need for an effective Incident Command System for Buncefield Oil DepotIntroductionThe major incident in Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal or Buncefield Oil Depot occurred early winter morning of December 11, 2005. A loud explosion followed by smaller but shattering explosions were heard from the Buncefield Oil Storage Depot in Hemel Hempstead while a large fire engulfed major parts of the site. The fire lasted for several days releasing enormous cloud of smoke in the environment reaching beyond southern England. Although there was no fatality, forty three people were injured and a large number of commercial and residential buildings were destroyed by the explosion.
The large fire also destroyed 20 large fuel tanks along with other structures inside the plant. Significant amount of foam and fire water were used resulting to pollution of the surface and ground water. An estimated 2000 people were evacuated while the M1 motorway was closed to traffic for a number of days. The purpose of this report is to explain the reasons why an effective incident command system is required in a large scale incident like Buncefield.
It will present the various levels of command required and the roles and responsibilities of various agencies that should have been involved in the Buncefield incident including appropriate risk assessment and action plan. Background of the Buncefield Oil Depot Incident The significant amount of overflowing petrol and cold air created a large vapour cloud that was ignited by a source in the emergency generator cabin. A large explosion occurred followed by a series of smaller ones resulting to a huge fire that engulfed at least twenty large storage tanks in the area.
Over 2000 people in the surrounding area were evacuated and commercial unites of different companies doing business in area were destroyed by the fire. The explosion damaged around 60 different buildings near the depot displacing over 4000 employees. Moreover, approximately 300 houses were slightly damaged by the explosion and the fuel supply for London and the South of England was interrupted for days because of the fire (Postol 2008, p. 92). The explosion and subsequent brought a number of problems including extensive damage to properties near the depot, and the large quantities of escaping fuel and fire fighting foam and water is soil and water pollution in the area. Importance of establishing an effective incident command system in a large-scale incident. Large-scale incidents such as the Buncefield Oil Depot are often complex because they involve a wide geographic area and bigger scope of work.
Unlike routine or less complicated incidents that only requires one or two responding agency, a large-scale incident demand a more complex command structure. In Buncefield for instance, the incident involves not only the depot or the oil storage site but nearby establishments and communities thus a more complex and bigger command structure is needed.
Moreover, individual communities have slightly different approaches in terms of incident response thus coordination during a large-scale incident should be more reliable and be able to manage these differences effectively. There are many reasons why an effective incident command system should be established in a large-scale incident and the most important are: