The idea of getting to an emergency as safely and quickly as possible is nothing new.
Emergency Services talk of the concept of the Golden Hour regarding the importance of
giving treatment to the victim of a traumatic injury within 60 minutes of it happening.
As times and technology change emergency services, including Cadent, are constantly
looking at how we can improve the way we do things to ensure better outcomes.
As the UK’s largest gas distribution company and provider of the gas emergency service over
our operational footprint, we cover large swathes of the country.
Our vast East region comprises both the East Midlands and East Anglia and includes
major towns and cities amid large belts of countryside populated with tracts of farmland and
Operating from a limited number of local depots and yards we still need to respond to
suspected gas incidents as soon as possible.
Some matters can be dealt with in just a few hours or less, but others will require our
presence on site for much longer.
Sometimes we’ll need to interact with other agencies such as the emergency services and
local authorities, whilst also having a base of operations and somewhere the public can
come and talk to us, that’s dry and has workable office facilities.
For some years we’ve had the Mobile Command Unit or MCU – a large 7.5 tonne truck,
Which we’ve used as a command and control facility when dealing with major incidents.
We also regularly utilise public buildings such as village halls and community centres as
makeshift incident headquarters and customer information centres.
And suitable as both these options are they do have their limitations.
For instance, the MCU is a centrally based vehicle meaning it can take many hours to reach
some areas of our network.
It also requires an HGV licence to drive, meaning that a suitably qualified driver must be
both sourced and available, not to mention the fact that the vehicle may already be deployed
at another incident.
All of these factors can mean a long wait before the MCU can arrive on site, to respond to an
Finding an appropriate community building relies on one being available and again sourcing
and booking an appropriate building takes time, especially in more remote locations and
outside regular hours.
All the while precious hours and minutes are ticking away.
That’s where our new bespoke Incident Support Unit (ISU) comes in – it’s basically a mini command centre on wheels.
Our East Anglia Emergency team worked with Cadent’s Fleet Team and suppliers Bri-Stor to develop the concept.
We’ve taken a regular VW Crafter Van and retrofitted it with all the incident kit you can think of.
The van packs in its own internal 240v power supply, wi-fi, stationary, printer, desk with road legal seating for four, wall mounted whiteboard, cupboard as well as ample storage for emergency equipment including Hi-Viz gear, cones as well as electric heaters and hotplates for vulnerable residents.
Emergency services in the UK operate a Gold, Silver and Bronze command structure to respond to major incidents, with Bronze being the element at the site of the incident.
Our new vehicle has all it needs to enable our Bronze element in a major incident to effectively plan, operate and communicate from site and is therefore an immensely valuable addition to our fleet.
As it weighs only 3.5 tonnes any of our employees with a driving licence can drive it, which together with the fact that it’s based exclusively in our region means that it arrives on site quicker.
The ISU is a real gamechanger in the way we handle incidents enabling us to get to the
heart of an incident and have a command and control facility set up faster than ever before.
It puts us on a par with other emergency services such as fire, police and ambulance service and means we can operate seamlessly alongside them.
The ISU has already proved its worth when just hours after it was delivered to us it was despatched to assist with a major operation to restore gas supplies to hundreds of homes in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, after a burst water main flooded the local gas network.
It complemented the work of the MCU (Mobile Command Unit) which was also on site very well, providing a mobile
a point of contact and assistance for affected customers in the town.
Moving forward we see it both continuing to complement the work of the MCU and the use of fixed locations such as community centres and also being a standalone option.
For instance, we can deploy the ISU to smaller scale incidents, where the MCU may not be sent to.
Now we’ve done the groundwork with our suppliers the concept is there to be utilised elsewhere in Cadent and other gas and utility networks too.
Cadent Technical Specialist Matt Kitchin