THE gas in Marsden is all back on, bar a handful of holiday homes, thanks, in part, to a special emergency service.

The gas leak on Chain Road left thousands of people without heating or cooking facilities for days while engineers worked tirelessly to reconnect supplies.

The huge operation was carried out by Northern Gas Networks, but the firm also needed the help of many Kirklees Council departments.

Hot food and shelter needed supplying, emergency teams needed to know where the elderly and vulnerable were housed and schools needed to know what was going on.

All this work was co-ordinated by Kirklees Emergency Planning, who refer to themselves as the `fourth emergency service'.

The team, in its new form, was created following legislation in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

The Marsden gas crisis was the group's first `real' emergency.

Team manager Sean Westerby said: "I think it went well.

"Our ultimate measure is what the residents of Marsden think to the council's response.

"All we're doing is acting as an intermediate. We just activate the council's response."

Emergency planning officer Jacqui Wilkinson said: "Because we are a new team we have worked within the office on various things. We have never worked out on site like that - but we thought it went really well."

Inbetween emergency situations the team plans and prepares for a range of scenarios.

At the moment the main risks are considered to be an outbreak of bird flu, along with bad weather, flooding and an explosion in a town centre.

If the Met Office issues a weather warning a member of the team has to pass it on to groups such as bus companies.

With bird flu - which would be a `health-led' incident - the main task would be to ensure businesses and day-to-day life could carry on.

In a terrorist incident the team would work with the intelligence and police services.

Mr Westerby said: "It's looking after the welfare of the population, the life issues. "It's about trying to restore things to normality."

The team is constantly updating its plans.

Several members from each council department receive training from the team on how to respond to an array of emergencies.

The team also works closely with their counterparts at neighbouring councils. They are constantly reviewing procedures and planning.

If required, there are a team of 50 volunteers at the council, who could establish a call centre. One of the team is always on call. Each has a mobile phone and a pocket PC.

Mr Westerby said he was obviously not happy about the Marsden incident, but added: "It came at a nice time to test us a team."

"We worked with other agencies and other services of the council for real and managed to deliver."

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A leaflet giving advice for businesses in emergency situations will be distributed with the business rate information.