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The Hidden Killer

The Hidden Killer

Posted on Tuesday 30th August 2016 by Graham

Earlier this month there was a large fire in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk that affected over 70 local businesses at the peak of their seasonal trade.

The fire caused extensive damage to an indoor market and the country’s oldest operational bowling alley, in the town’s Regent Road which has caused considerable distress to those business owners and the surrounding homeowners.

As well as the fire itself and the smoke damage there was another hidden killer that could have serious implications for those living nearby and those involved in fighting the blaze. Jim Palmer, of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said after the fire: "To enable the town to return to normal, we have to start bringing this building down now." However, there were other implications that needed to be considered...asbestos.

Clearing asbestos

Great Yarmouth Borough Council said work had been completed to make the site structurally safe and to enable firefighters in the ground floor to dampen down hot spots over the weekend. They added that following expert advice, material containing asbestos would now need to be cleared from the site.

A statement from the local council said "A clean-up crew wearing protective equipment are starting to remove the debris and another team has started to board up windows [opposite].

Thankfully the firefighters would have been wearing respiratory equipment which would minimise the risk, but what about possible asbestos fibres in the air, smoke and dust, what about police officers, ambulance crews (if deployed) and of course the general public?

Before any demolition work could begin, any possible asbestos materials had to be cleared away and any possible risk dealt with.

Asbestos and Natural Disasters

Natural disasters, such as fires, pose obvious dangers from the moment they occur, and the aftermath of them also presents concerns for safety. But natural disasters also pose a threat to human health in the long run. The reason? Because events such as fires can expose the emergency services, workers and the public to asbestos and asbestos-containing products and materials, as well as the dangers and health risks associated with these.

Any residential or commercial buildings that were built before 1999 are more than likely to contain asbestos materials. These materials are considered safe as long as they are contained and not damaged. However, once damaged, broken or burned, blown or washed away, the products then become a likely health hazard. As you probably already know, asbestos exposure can potentially develop into an asbestos related disease such as Mesothelioma, Asbestosis or Lung Cancer many years after the exposure occurred.

Asbestos Fibres

The hazard stems from the toxic asbestos fibres when they become airborne. In the case of a fire or natural disaster the emergency response crews and early response volunteers face an increased risk for asbestos exposure because they typically arrive first on the scene.

So as you can see, it is not just those in the construction industry who are at risk or need suitable training when it comes to dealing with asbestos.


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