Emergency response to racking collapse
06 August 2018
A leading fireman told a seminar at the Talent in Logistics conference how the fire service freed a forklift operator who had been buried under tonnes of cheese after a catastrophic racking collapse at a warehouse in Shropshire.
Image used with thanks to Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service
The fire service used more than 100 people in the rescue which took nine hours to reach a successful conclusion.
Neil Griffiths, group manager operations at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, describes what firefighters found when they arrived at the Edwards Transport warehouse in Hinstock, Shropshire.
“On call (part-time) firefighters were the first two crews at the site. It was a very challenging and complex incident, which is difficult to train for.
“What had happened is a forklift clipped racking, causing all of the high-bay racking (storing cheese blocks in cardboard packs) in the packed warehouse to collapse in a domino effect.
“Firefighters found racking and produce had breached the walls in some places. It was very unstable and to complicate matters further the roof was clad in solar panels, which remained energised. There is no way to turn them off, so this makes it hard to use cutting tools.”
The key challenge was pinpointing the location of the forklift operator in the facility, which was creaking and groaning throughout the rescue. The forklift operator did not have a mobile so could not be contacted.
A little bit of improvisation and a new multi-agency approach to major incidents saved the day in the end.
Neil explains: “There was no CCTV but one of the firemen at the scene happened to have a drone. We cut a hole in the roof and dropped in the drone to see what happened.”
This helped to visualise the nature of the challenge and it was decided to call upon specialist resources.
“We brought in a dedicated urban rescue team, who are trained to rescue people from collapsed structures. This is where the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP) came into its own. This is a police / fire / ambulance multi-agency initiative to deal with major incidents. The different agencies got together ASAP, and there was a lot of work happening off scene.
“We put devices on the warehouse stanchions to assess stability and sent in a dog from Merseyside Fire Rescue. When the dog found him, we were able to tunnel in and extract the man - Tomasz Wiszniewski. He had no injuries, as he was protected by the safety cage of his forklift.”
Neil concludes that the incident shows the importance of funding in an age of austerity.
“This incident, as well as Grenfell, shows need too resource for the risk not demand. We need to fund for tough incidents, even if they are rare.”