Balcan BELL throwline averts diesel spillage distaster

Published:  18 February, 2010

An emergency life-saving throwline designed and manufactured by UK based Balcan Engineering, which is normally used to rescue people from water, ice and mud helped avert a diesel spillage disaster, which threatened to contaminate Lake Michigan in the United States.

The incident happened when firefighters from the City of Racine near Milwaukee received an emergency call to deal with a diesel spillage in a small village a few miles from the city of Racine in Wisconsin. It had flowed into a storm drain and from there into a creek and was threatening to enter Lake Michigan posing a danger to marine life.

“The original call was to assist the local fire department to contain the diesel spill that had made its way from a storm sewer to Pikes Creek. The diesel had started to enter the creek so we put some absorbent boom down in the creek at that point then made our way down the creek approximately half a mile down stream. At this point the creek was about 16 feet below ground level, quite wide and the footing was very slippery. One of my crew used the throwline to help pull a larger rope across the water way, which proved to be a fast and efficient way to help put a large boom in place which in turn stopped the diesel fuel from moving down stream into Lake Michigan,” said Lieutenant Thomas Benner of the Racine Fire Department who was in charge of the operation and had used the BELL fitted in his vehicle.

“This was the first time we had used Balcan’s BELL throwline and I was impressed by its role in this incident and its potential use in emergency responses. The Racine Fire Department will be looking into buying more of these in the near future,” said Lt Benner.

“This was an unusual use of the BELL but it shows the flexibility and wider capability of the device. The 40 metre line used by Thomas Benner is incredibly easy to throw over that distance,” said John Rinfret, managing director of Balcan Engineering and the inventor of the Balcan Emergency Life Line – BELL.
“The fire department had purchased the BELL about 15 years previously and it was obviously in good, reliable condition, unlike some other safety equipment which has to be replaced every 3 years and can still fail,” added John Rinfret.

Balcan Engineering, based at Horncastle in Lincolnshire, recently developed a shorter version of the BELL for those who do not need the longer reach of the original model.

At 25 metres and coloured bright yellow the BELL long it is incredibly easier to throw that length than any other line according to the manufacturer.

Balcan’s latest model is based on the design of the company’s world renowned Balcan Emergency Life Line – BELL - which was invented in 1973 and which uses 40 metres of similar line and remains the only line to have been allocated NATO Stock Numbers (NSNs) by the Royal Navy since 2000. Unlike throwbags the BELL is the only throwing line to be certificated internationally for use at sea by both Bureau Veritas and the MCA (Marine Corps Association), according to Balcan.
The plastic capsule in which the line is packed is bright yellow in colour so it can be easily seen on the surface of the water and remains distinctive from the orange coloured original longer version. Both allow the capsule to be thrown at the time of the rescue attempt and to be easily repacked for storage purposes.

“The principle of the BELL throwline is simple, to increase the chances of a successful rescue by allowing faster and easier contact with victims at the greatest possible distance before they are swept out of reach. It is ideal for use by boat owners and users and staff working in any environment around water during construction or inspection of sites or buildings and for helping businesses and industry meet their health and safety commitments,” said John Rinfret, who added “throwing it is as easy as throwing a half pint beer bottle and being so compact there is no reason why it cannot be made available wherever it is needed.”

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