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Emergency Call Out to Stannington Crisis


On Wednesday 7th December we received a call from NCASS, asking if we were able to join the emergency call out catering team and if so, could we possibly get to Sheffield and serve hot food and drinks for a few days as they had a Gas outage and were struggling to find another vehicle at short notice closer to the area.

Even though Sheffield is a seven hour round trip we very quickly stocked our support vehicle with food and drinks and along with our catering vehicle we started the long journey.

Northern Powergrid wanted a number of catering vehicles spread out over the affected areas offering free hot food and drinks to all the residents affected, this may not seem like a big deal to some but many of the residents were feeling neglected and forgotten, they had no working ovens and the chance to grab some delicious gourmet burgers, chips and a drink was a reminder that they weren’t forgotten.

emergency and last minute mobile catering

The Crisis

On Saturday, December 3, a burst water pipe in Stannington flooded into a gas main in the area. The leak was stopped, but the water left in the pipes left many without gas, leaving residents with no boilers, heating, or cooking’

Around 2,000 homes in Stannington and Malin Bridge, Sheffield, had been impacted by a large gas outage that left them without heating or hot water for over a week.

Sheffield City Council have since declared a ‘major incident’, saying the incident has progressed and spread further across the city. The council says it will be supporting affected residents as the weather gets colder.

On Monday, December 5, Cadent Gas issued an update saying more than 400,000 litres of water had been pumped out of the gas network, though there was still more. Hundreds of engineers have been on the site to help pump water out.

Cadent then warned residents in Stannington and Malin Bridge there was a risk of losing electricity supplies due to the network being overloaded. This sadly happened leaving many residents now without electricity, meaning the small electric fires they were heavily relying on to stay warm were now redundant.

Day One: Our First Night

We arrived around 5pm, to be told our vehicle would be better suited at another site as our build could handle hundreds of orders an hour. We were met with many road works, dug up holes and traffic lights everywhere we drove, it was dark at this point and the Gas engineers were everywhere.

We have a setup time of around 30 minutes once parked up and during this time local residents started to come over and a queue was forming whilst our cooking appliances were warming up, we quickly realised this was going to be a busy night. Once the word got out there was free hot food and drinks, we had a constant queue of around 20 people and had to work as efficiently as possible to keep the queues down as it was starting to hit -1 degrees outside.

We were told to stay until around 10pm and to leave earlier if there was no demand, well we were still there gone Ten, locals were putting our location on their Socials, they were texting family and friends and they were almost pulling others in from the streets. Our colourful vehicle couldn’t be missed as locals drove past, we could literally see them turning around and coming back. Not everyone had realised this was free food and drinks and some even insisted on paying, we didn’t take their money of course but it was obvious many were moved that we were there for them.

Over the following 4 hours or so it quickly became apparent that along with the food and drink they wanted to share their stories with us whilst they waited, we were happy to lend an ear, we became an outlet for their frustrations at the situation, a chance for them to get it off their chest and there were some very sad stories.

One woman had left hospital after being ill over a few days, she was happy to get home to her own bed to then awake to a freezing home, thinking she’d have to reset her boiler she started to see all the messages and the local news informing her of exactly what had happened.

Another family was telling us how they were trying to keep themselves and their 3 young children warm with one small electric heater, they were all sitting around it in the smallest room to keep it warm, they even moved their TV in to watch a movie or two.

These were just two of many stories we heard throughout the night and even though you could feel the pain of what they were going through one feeling overrode all, resilience, it was difficult to even empathise with their situation, it was hard to imagine having no hot water for the last five days, no heating, unable to use a Gas oven, add in the challenges of having cold upset children you’d think it would break these residents, but no, they were talking to complete strangers in the queues, sharing their stories, even being jovial and some would simply hug or shake hands, a really strong community was created by everyone sharing the same horrid circumstances, it was humbling to see.

Finally we’d managed to serve everyone, we then had to clear everything away, the locals were really good at disposing their packaging in our recycling bins and we had to clean up and turn everything off ready for our travels back to St Albans, we were physically drained but the situation, the fact we’d made people smile and been there for them gave us a steady form of energy and we were already thinking of way to improve our efficiency the next day. The one benefit of a three-hour journey home is we had plenty of time to assess the situation, so we had a travelling meeting and had plenty to discuss to ease the journey.

blog emergency call out to Stannington

Day Two: Busy Times

We started with shopping, we had served a total of 322 hot meals and drinks yesterday and we would be there even earlier today, on top of that news spreads fast as they say, and we even helped them out by posting about it on the Stannington social pages.

Once the support vehicle was again fully stocked, we headed off, travelling on the motor way is always fun, we get children waving at us as they pass, we get horns honking to get our attention and also many wide-eyed stares as they try to take in as much as possible as a giant yellow themed bus comes into view.

We went to our designated area and started the whole process over again, and again it was busy within minutes, we heard that some of the other smaller mobile catering vehicles were running out of food by mid afternoon which meant they found themselves heading to us.

The atmosphere was the same as the day before, strangers greeting each other warmly and talking to each other like they were best friends, bear in mind we were at freezing temperatures now and yet they were polite, friendly and very patient when ordering and awaiting their food.

We finished just after Ten and were shocked at what little was left in the support van we had served over 400 meals, it was a very successful day and we were looking forward to repeating again on day three.

Day Three: The Interview

We were asked to go to a new area, Malin Bridge, which was also heavily affected and had a large car park they could use. We posted again on Facebook pages for the Malin Bridge areas to let everyone know and before we set off, we got a notification that someone from ITV wanted to go and interview some of the locals to get their view and thoughts on the situation, they wanted to know if we would chat briefly about our experience as they’d seen our posts and the vehicle.

We of course were very happy to do this, and we ended up having a two minute chat on air, seen below. It was great to give our thoughts on the situation and our experience with the residents.

Again, we had a very successful day, handing out over 600 meals and meeting a lot of new residents who were also very happy to share their stories with is whilst awaiting their order.

Day Four: Last and Busiest Day

Being a Saturday, we were asked to arrive earlier to cover the lunch time and stay throughout the day and night again.

We carried out our biggest shop, completely filling the support vehicle and the bus with stock, we had concerns we would run out of food as speaking to the others that were giving out food across the area, they had all run out at some point during their days.

During the day we started to hear that some of the streets were getting their Gas back up and running but it would still take days to get to everyone.

As with the previous days we were nonstop serving, we were starting to recognise some of the chattier locals too. We served over 800 meals and drinks by the time the last of the residents left us.

In Conclusion

Although a very tiring time, with the 7 hours travel and the seven or more hours serving throughout the day, we look back on the day with pride, we were proud of how the local residents handled the situation, the warm welcomes we had and their overall resilience, but we also had self-pride, this was our busiest week and we know we made a difference albeit small to the days of the residents.

We also had some great messages sent to us which we’ll share.

“hi I’m nick I live in Hillsborough Sheffield, me and my wife have been affected by the events on Friday with the water burst n now having no gas. we have visited ur van tonight for some needed hot food, just like to say thank you for your support and very tasty food.”

 “Thanks for your help and patience in Stannington this evening – it was a relief to get the kids something to eat after our gas and electricity went out

You guys were fab !”

“Top food! And thanks so much for everything”

“Stay warm. Your efforts have been really appreciated. You are a star!”

“We want u guys back your burgers were amazing”

An Update

An update from network director, Richard Sansom

As confirmed yesterday evening, we have restored supply to every property impacted by the ‘water in gas pipes’ incident in the Stannington and Malin Bridge, Hillsborough area.
Richard Sansom, director of the Cadent network which manages this area of South Yorkshire, issued this statement today.
“After a monumental effort by a big team from Cadent and other agencies, we have gas restored now to every property.
“It’s an incredible achievement, working day and night since this started two weeks ago, and in freezing temperatures.
“I want to offer a huge thanks to everyone in Stannington, Malin Bridge, Hillsborough and other areas impacted by this.
“Despite the personal challenge to you, the kindness and support you’ve given to us throughout has been incredible. Thank you.
“You unexpectedly had to deal with your local population being increased by several hundred people overnight and then for two weeks. You made us feel amazingly welcome and appreciated, despite the issues you were facing because you had no gas.
“We’ve removed more than one million litres of water from the gas pipes in an area that covered four miles. While we do get ‘water ingress’ incidents like this occasionally, the volumes we’re talking about here are way above the norm.
“We can also confirm that more than 3,000 properties were impacted, whether by loss of gas completely, poor pressures or damage caused to boilers and appliances.
“We know there are still pockets of water moving around, under your feet, which is why some properties that we’ve put back on gas are intermittently going off again. This is part of the reason for us maintaining a presence in the area, for a good while yet, so we can act quickly when this happens.
“We are also very conscious that, for some people, the water has impacted their boilers and other appliances. We are working with everyone who has found themselves in this position, to make sure the arrangements are made to fix these or replace them.
“Our customer team will remain at Rivelin Fire Station today (16 Dec), so if you have any questions, please come visit us here. The phone line we created just for this incident will also remain for a good while yet, so ring that number if you need us: 0800 917 9598.
“We are also acutely aware that we have a lot of tidying up to do in the local area and that will be done over the coming days.”