Dirty bomb decontamination unit will be moved miles from Kingsland under fire cuts

The Incident Response Unit vehicle

The Incident Response Unit vehicle - Credit: Archant

A specialist decontaminating machine which would be deployed in the event of a dirty bomb attack in the City will be moved out of Hackney and six miles out of the City if draft fire plans are implemented, it has emerged.

The tent from the Incident Response Unit vehicle

The tent from the Incident Response Unit vehicle - Credit: Archant

Kingsland fire station was chosen to house one of London’s 10 incident response units (IRUs) because of its proximity to the financial district, but location outside of the “explosion exclusion zone”.

The Incident Response Unit vehicle

The Incident Response Unit vehicle - Credit: Archant

Provided by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management, the vehicles are designed to tackle incidents of mass decontamination, whether biological, chemical or radiological.

Every firefighter at the station in Kingsland Road is trained to work the unit, which needs up to 30 people to set up three tents.

In the first tent casualties would take off their clothes and put them in a bag, in the second 200 people an hour can have a hot shower to decontaminate, and in the third the casualties dress themselves using one of the “re-robe packs” containing a towel, filter mask, paper underwear, suit, jacket and trousers, socks and shoes, which are stored in packs on the IRU.

But Kingsland is one of 12 fire stations in the capital earmarked to be shut in the draft fifth London Safety Plan, which aims to save £28.8million, and the IRU will be moved out to Plaistow in Newham if the closure goes ahead.

At a public consultation on the fire station cuts on Monday night, Mick Gibbs, watch manager from Kingsland fire station asked Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson why that was now considered acceptable, and what the current terrorist threat level was.

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“That vehicle was placed at Kingsland specifically for our location, just outside the financial capital of Europe, to protect the thousands and thousands of people that move into the city to work there every day,” he said.

Mr Dobson replied: “The terrorist threat at the particular time the appliance was provided for has been downgraded slightly by the government in the last six months or so.”

He said the IRU could easily meet its 45-minute attendance target – one of the few set by central government – from Plaistow.

“Whilst Kingsland was the right place to put that vehicle 10 years ago, in future we can serve those attendance targets from another station,” Mr Dobson said.

One firefighter from Kingsland said after the meeting that the IRU was designed to be used in “doomsday scenarios”.

“If it was ever needed in London, you are talking about decontamination of no less than 200 and maybe up to thousands of people. Predominantly it is there for a terrorist attack or a dirty bomb,” he said.

Another added: “I know they said the terrorist threat had gone down but look how on edge everyone was with the London Marathon after what happened in Boston.

“The whole of the London Fire Brigade is an insurance policy. If I need it, I know it’s going to be there to look after me if something does happen.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “Our decontamination units do not operate in isolation and all of our decontamination units, wherever they are based, are supported by specially trained crews from other stations.

“In the event of an incident in the City, or anywhere else in the capital, our response will not be adversely affected and we will still be able to mobilise the correct equipment to the scene as effectively as before.”

The consultation ends on June 17. To take part visit www.citizenspace.com/app/london-fire-brigade/lsp5/consult_view.