Simulated ‘disaster’ highlights expertise of rescue teams

10/09/20 | Park News

A disaster training exercise involving a major co-ordinated response from the emergency services has been voted a huge success.

Hosted by Westcott Venture Park Buckinghamshire, Exercise Phoenix involved a scenario of a small jet crashing into a rocket testing and fuel production facility following an unsuccessful emergency landing.

Visual props were used to replicate a scene where it rapidly emerged that several people were unaccounted for both in the plane and in the building itself, triggering a full-scale emergency response.

Trained actors played the victims, while a large pile of rubble normally recycled into new buildings allowed crews to carry out tunnelling exercises and helped mock-up buildings on the verge of collapse.

Exercise Phoenix was held on 9th and 10th September and coordinated by Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service as part of the national Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Programme and involved more than 100 personnel.

Five USAR units from Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Essex and West Midlands attended with dogs and handlers trained to detect live human scent and tactical advisors. These included Huw, a chocolate Labrador/Springer cross, who has been trained at Westcott. 

They were joined by ten Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) paramedics using a range of specialist lifesaving equipment and vehicles and Police Disaster Victim Identification teams.

Preparations, which included sourcing a jet fuselage and a several vehicles, started last autumn, with attempts being made to ensure a realistic and challenging scenario faces the USAR teams.

They were overseen by National Resilience Assessors who monitored how the teams interacted and worked together with their findings reported back to the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Cross-service training exercises such as this are usually staged every three years and offer a key opportunity for the specially trained technicians to practice a coordinated, efficient response.

Kevin Mercer, Aylesbury Fire Station Commander, said: “These exercises are extremely important to ensure the emergency service co-ordination in response to a major incident.

“Scenarios such as this can happen at any time and we need to be ready to respond in the most effective way possible to save lives.”

The first day of the exercise will deal with the incident while the second is dedicated to debriefing the teams involved.

Another key figure on the day was Daniel Jubb, Managing Director of The Falcon Project, a propulsion company based at Westcott who advised emergency responders on the issues surrounding the jet crashing into a rocket testing facility.

Jayne Cannell, Westcott Business Park Manager, said: “The exercise was incredibly realistic and everyone at the Park was incredibly impressed by the skill and professionalism of the teams involved.

“Westcott is an ideal location and we are delighted to be able to support major initiatives such as this as well as community projects.”

Buckinghamshire Fire Rescue Service paid £1,000 for the use of the space and facilities. This has been donated to Florence Nightingale Hospice in Aylesbury which provides a range of palliative and end of life care services for local people. 

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