After my earlier postings here and here, I emailed the authorities to ask what the exercise was that John Prescott mentioned. They have now confirmed that this was a water mains test exercise held on 18 November.
The Resilience Manager in the Government Office for the East of England (GO-East) kindly replied:
“The information I have so far is that the exercise was a Fire Service Exercise, held a couple of months before the Buncefield Incident. The exercise was held on the Buncefield Oil Depot site…. ”
(and in a second email)
The fire service has carried out numerous exercises at the Buncefield Site. The last exercise was on the 18th November 2005. It was a water mains test exercise with six fire appliances and six fire crews in attendance. There was also testing of equipment such as the foam application equipment.
One thing that came out of the exercise was that water access was not the best due to positioning of certain hydrants. These recommendations were put to the companies at the Buncefield Site and action was taken to resolve the problems before 11th Dec 05
Its very gratifying to get a prompt and helpful response. (Ive emailed the US and Israeli authorities on other issues, and had nothing remotely helpful.) I hope that the full HSE enquiry into Buncefield will provide an objective view on how helpful the exercises were, rather than the rumours and half quotes Ive heard so far.