KWR in action during Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region exercise

Realistic test case for Crisis Expert Team: Environment and Drinking Water

A large-scale exercise of the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region is a valuable test case to experience as realistically as possible how various parties collaborate with each other in the event of an emergency. This was demonstrated by a recently conducted exercise, in which KWR participated in its expert role for drinking water within the Crisis Expert Team: Environment and Drinking Water (CET-md). The processes ran smoothly, although there is room for improvement in the mutual accessibility of information.

KWR has been part of the Crisis Expert Team: Environment and Drinking Water (CET-md) for over ten years. Earlier this year a new covenant was signed that further structured the collaboration.  The CET-md was established by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and comprises eight knowledge institutes with expertise in a variety of areas.

View from the rehearsal room on the twentieth floor of the World Port Center in Rotterdam.

Fire outbreak

KWR provides two CET-md process managers: Roberta Hofman and Ton van Leerdam. Besides their periodic on-call service, during which real crisis situations can occur, the two researchers also took part in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region exercise. In the exercise an emergency situation was simulated involving a fire outbreak at the ESSO site caused by a lightning strike. Because of the failure of the extinguishing systems, one tank containing heavy oil and hazardous substances burst into flames. This was a large-scale exercise with hundreds of people from a variety of crisis partners, working at the fire department, police, Rotterdam municipality, Public Care, safety regions, DCMR Milieudienst Rijnmond, and Water Authorities. ‘I sat on the twentieth floor of the World Port Center in Rotterdam,’ says Van Leerdam. ‘There, I witnessed how the Regional Operational Team get into action in such instances. People run back and forth, hanging on to the phone and speaking through pagers. A pretty impressive experience.’


Van Leerdam’s role was to be one of the ‘opposing players’. That is: participate in the process representing parties who might have questions during such an emergency. Thus, the drinking water utility Evides wanted to know what the consequences would be if the firewater ended up in surface water. Could this firewater also end up in drinking water reservoirs? Does this need to be taken into consideration in intake and treatment operations? Questions that, in real situations, can be asked over the Water Telephone, the emergency line which is housed at KWR, and through which water utilities have been able access specialist knowledge 24/7 for over 40 years.

Link between drinking water utilities and the CET-md

The process managers ensure that the process runs smoothly during emergencies. That the right information is available, and questions directed to the right institutes. And, of course, that the answers get to the right place. ‘Within the network, KWR is the direct link to the water utilities,’ says Van Leerdam. His colleague Hofman adds: ‘We have a great deal of knowledge in-house about drinking water treatment and toxicology. We also regularly take courses of the Departmental Crisis Coordination Centre to learn how we should act in emergencies. It’s extremely interesting, because, in addition to water, you’re dealing with all kinds of other aspects.’

World Port Center where the Regional Operational Team (ROT) and the people of the ‘counterpart’ were present.

Excellent collaboration

This is the first time that the CET-md has been involved in such a large-scale exercise. The objective was to see whether the crisis organisation meets all of the regulatory requirements. Both Hofman and Van Leerdam confirm that this was broadly speaking the case. ‘During the evaluation the conclusion was that the collaboration was excellent and that the processes flowed well,’ says Van Leerdam. The exercise also presented a good opportunity to test, in a complex situation, the National Crisis Management System (LCMS), which was recently brought into operation.  This tool is intended for the exchange of information between all of the crisis partners involved to promote their smooth collaboration. Hofman: ‘The software works very intuitively; it is easy to fill out. But it turned out that the CET-md still did not have access to all information. There is room for improvement in this area.’ A next large-scale exercise is not yet planned. But KWR will certainly join in again, says Hofman. ‘These are occasions when it is alright if something goes wrong.’