Wee Toon workers ‘invaluable’ during massive Falkirk gas outage

Ronnie McKerral, left, and Ryan Deans, right, assisted with the major gas outage.
Ronnie McKerral, left, and Ryan Deans, right, assisted with the major gas outage.

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By Hannah O’Hanlon

Two Campbeltown engineers have been praised for their ‘invaluable’ support in restoring gas supplies to 8,000 homes following a large-scale outage in Falkirk.

Ronnie McKerral and Ryan Deans are both multi-skilled craftspeople for gas distribution company SGN, which means they are capable of carrying out boiler repairs and general maintenance alongside their roles as first call operatives (FCOs).

FCOs are emergency response workers who are the first people to be called upon during urgent situations.

Ronnie and Ryan were informed on Sunday December 1 that they would be required to assist thousands of other engineers from across the UK to help restore supplies in Falkirk, so they packed their bags and left on Monday morning.

This is the furthest the engineers, who normally work in and around Campbeltown, have been asked to travel, and the biggest operation that Campbeltown engineers have assisted with in at least 20 years, according to their bosses.

Ronnie and Ryan explained that most SGN engineers tend to focus on one role but, being based in a remote location, they are skilled in several areas. It was this versatility which led a senior manager to describe their assistance as ‘invaluable’, as they were some of the only engineers capable of repairing boilers once the network was restored.

Speaking to the Courier after they returned to Campbeltown last Friday, the men said that during three and a half days’ work in Falkirk, they visited 230 houses.

Ronnie, 31, who has worked for SGN for 10-and-a-half years described the experience as ‘quite an eye-opener’.

He said: ‘There were maps up on the walls, managers everywhere – it was like something from a Second World War film. Hats off to the managers who organised everything as it was a major incident.

‘We lost power here for six days in 2013 so we know what it’s like for them, and how people would be feeling, so we got there as quickly as we could.

‘People in Falkirk couldn’t have been nicer; everyone was very understanding. The staff at Camelon Community Centre, which served as our base, spent a lot of hours volunteering and were really nice and helpful.’

Ryan, 22, who has worked for SGN for two years, was supposed to be receiving training at the time but was pulled out to help in Falkirk.

Both men agreed that the incident gave them good on-the-job experience and they would help in a similar situation ‘in a heartbeat’.

Campbeltown has three FCOs, so the town was left in safe hands should a situation have arisen while the boys were away.

It is believed that a fault in a piece of equipment that regulates pressure in the gas network was to blame for the issues.

In a statement, SGN said: ‘Over recent days, our engineers have been working tirelessly to restore gas to more than 8,000 homes across Falkirk.

‘We’ve been joined by engineers from across the UK, which has enabled us to reconnect supplies more quickly than we first anticipated.

‘We know that it’s been a challenging few days without your gas supply, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the sense of community spirit.’

Ronnie McKerral, left, and Ryan Deans, right, assisted with the major gas outage. 50_c50gas01