Always ready for the call to action:
Three questions to Gert Van Bortel
The annual major incident drill took place on June 18. This drill has been held at the Ludwigshafen site for almost 30 years now - but why and how does the site fire brigade benefit from the rehearsed emergency?
Gert Van Bortel, Vice President BASF Emergency Response, briefly answers the most important questions:
Mr. Van Bortel, the major incident drill has been held since 1990. How did it all begin?
In 1990, the BASF Board of Executive Directors decided to conduct these exercises twice a year. The aim was to ensure that the site Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, Environmental Monitoring and Site Security are always be prepared for an emergency. The organizational basis of all major incident drills is the major emergency response plan put together in 1980 by BASF experts in collaboration with experts from the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the City of Ludwigshafen. This plan outlines all organizational and communicative steps to be taken in the event of an emergency.
The effort involved is enormous, with 100 emergency responders, 24 vehicles and 120 guests – what is the benefit of all this?
Even though we have emergency response exercises almost on a daily basis, with 220 emergency drills per year, the major incident drill is an outstanding training opportunity. After all, in case of an emergency the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services need to work hand in hand with Site Security, Environmental Monitoring, Employee Care Team and the plant. That’s why we train regularly the necessary procedures and measures at the site.
And that’s important, as even though we have been running a chemical plant with the very highest safety standard for decades, it is essential to be prepared for the unlikely event of an incident. I compare it with the first aid courses, which – I hope – everyone participates in regularly. You don’t participate because you expect to be confronted with an accident straight away and have to provide first aid. You go there to be well prepared for this situation and to be able to provide fast and effective first aid. Our exercises with our professionally trained and very well-equipped emergency response teams are just the same.
Why do you need spectators? Isn’t this just an unnecessary complication?
With the major incident drill, we demonstrate our performance in the event of a crisis to our neighbors, the competent authorities of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, city of Ludwigshafen and the insurance companies. It’s also about establishing trust and showing that we are ideally prepared in case of an emergency. This year we invited the members of the neighborhood forum for the first time. And there was another first this year: We raffled off a total of 10 wildcards for interested employees and externals, so for those who are particularly interested in the BASF Fire Department.