UG control room misunderstood alarm about toxic substance due to technical failure

The misunderstood alarm about a toxic substance in Nijenborgh 4 in early December was not because the control room employee did not speak English, but because of noise on the line.

The UG announced this following its evaluation of the incident. ‘Someone called the emergency number from an international number, so there was an awful lot of noise on the line,’ says spokesperson Elies Wempe-Kouwenhoven. ‘The person could not be understood as a result. So it was mainly a technical problem.’

In early December, a rapidly evaporating toxic substance was released in a laboratory at the Stratingh Institute. The building was subsequently evacuated. After the incident, a council member stated at the Faculty Council meeting that the notification to emergency number 8050 had ‘not been handled well’.

Insufficient English

The employee at the emergency number allegedly did not speak sufficient English and therefore did not understand the report. Moreover, the council member said, this was not the first time the control room did not understand an emergency notification.

FSE portfolio manager Esther Marije Klop reacted with concern and would talk to the contracted party. That review has since taken place. ‘The contracted party is G4S. When we hired them, we reached an agreement about their employees’ language skills,’ says Wempe-Kouwenhoven.

According to the spokesperson, not all calls from a foreign phone number cause noise on the line. ‘But intelligibility remains an issue.’

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