Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and Bradford Council are thanking the people of Silsden for their resilience and community spirit during the recent loss of gas supply to their town.
The gas supply to over 3,500 properties in Silsden was cut off on the morning of Friday, 30 March, when a third party building contractor damaged a gas main in the area.
A massive operation then ensued, led by the North of England’s gas distribution network, Northern Gas Networks, to keep the community safe and warm, and to get everyone connected back up to the gas network as quickly as possible. Around 8,000 customers were affected.
St James Church was one of the first on hand to assist, with Rev David Griffiths allowing Northern Gas Networks to use the church hall as a customer drop-in centre throughout the long weekend and Silsden AFC becoming the base for strategic operations.
With an army of Northern Gas Networks engineers working to get people back on gas, supported by hundreds of office-based colleagues from throughout the business, and bolstered by engineers from gas networks nationwide, Bradford Council worked with the team to help coordinate the local effort. The council also opened up Keighley Leisure Centre’s shower facilities for all those affected by the loss of gas.
Emergency equipment was swiftly provided by Northern Gas Networks, including electric heaters and hot plates for cooking. Northern Gas Networks also provided food vouchers for all residents and drafted in mobile food vans to make sure no one was left without a hot meal.
With thousands of people affected, it was critical to make sure that vulnerable people were not left cold or without information. Northern Gas Networks kept customers updated by sharing information on its website and social media channels but in order to contact residents who weren’t online a callout out was made for volunteers in the local community. More than 50 people turned up on the Saturday morning to help colleagues from Northern Gas Networks to distribute letters. Residents gamely went around visiting neighbours and sharing information. The support of the local community was invaluable.
Local Facebook group Silsden Buzz was alight with posts and comments about the situation, with volunteers sharing information from Northern Gas Networks, the church hall and Bradford Council and a special group ‘NGN Silsden Says Thank You’ was set up by Silsden Buzz – https://www.facebook.com/groups/163662744349271/about/
Many local businesses also provided support, from Steeton Hall Hotel’s offer of hot showers, to a large consignment of food from Ilkley Tesco, organised by a resident who works in the store.
Local people themselves showed an astonishing level of buoyancy throughout, welcoming the gas engineers into their homes, and jubilantly announcing on social media the locations of the gas reconnections as they progressed from street to street.
Bradford Council strategic director Michael Jameson was leading the council’s support during the incident. He said: “The community spirit we have witnessed in Silsden during the loss of gas supply has been absolutely amazing. Despite the significant inconvenience to their daily lives, people have rallied round, looked out for their vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, and kept cheerful and supportive of the operation. Thank you to all of Silsden for your optimism and patience.
“Local businesses and organisations, and of course St James Church and Silsden Sports Club, have been fantastic, providing local people with amenities, comfort, food and support. The presence of the British Red Cross has also been invaluable. At a time when temperatures reached below freezing, it was extremely reassuring to have this additional support for residents’ wellbeing, which included care for vulnerable people in their own homes.
“Finally we cannot thank Northern Gas Networks enough for their highly professional response to the situation. The level of gratitude and praise they have received from the people of Silsden is testament to their wholehearted approach to resolving the situation promptly and fully.”
Mark Horsley, Chief Executive at Northern Gas Networks, said: “We would like to thank everyone involved over this Easter weekend for their fantastic support and patience. Thankfully incidents like this are extremely rare, however, when they do happen to have the support of the community that we saw in Silsden makes a huge difference. The way residents pulled together to help each other really shows the strength of spirit throughout Silsden.
“We would like to thank West Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Bradford Council, Northern Powergrid, Wales & West Utilities, Cadent, SGN, local volunteers, St James Church, Silsden Town Hall and Library, Silsden Buzz, Silsden AFC, the British Red Cross, Norwood House Nursing home, the local community and everybody else who supported us in resolving the loss of supply as safely and quickly as possible.”
The first homes were reconnected to the gas supply on Saturday, 31 March, just a day after the damage occurred. By Tuesday, 3 April gas supplies had been restored to more than 3,200 properties in Silsden, with just a few left to reconnect where access was not yet available.
Anyone that smells gas or suspects carbon monoxide should call the National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999. This line is in operation 24-hours a day, seven days a week.