Fire Service training exercise a huge success
The training exercise, known as Exercise Cerberus, took place on Sunday 17 March at three separate locations across Worcestershire, and was designed to test the Service’s capability of responding to three challenging emergency incidents occurring within a short time span.
The first of these simulated emergencies was staged at Amcor Flexibles on Four Pools Industrial Estate in Evesham and involved chemicals leaking from a trailer which then caught fire. Fire crews isolated the leak and extinguished the fire using a foam blanket, and also rescued two casualties, who were decontaminated by fire service personnel on site. Several houses nearby were also evacuated as a precautionary measure during the incident.
The second part of the training exercise took place at Richard Lloyd Transport in Boraston Lane, Tenbury Wells, and involved a gas explosion within the basement of the premises, resulting in a fire and a partial building collapse. The Service’s USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) team joined fire crews at the scene where five people were reported to be trapped inside the building and the presence of asbestos was also suspected. The exercise also simulated two firefighters in breathing apparatus getting into difficulties themselves as they conducted a search of the premises, and they were subsequently assisted by colleagues out of the building.
The final part of the exercise involved a simulated mass contamination incident at conference facilities at the Chateau Impney Hotel in Droitwich. Guests at a wedding reception were said to have come into contact with an unknown white powder at the premises, and so firefighters wearing gas-tight chemical protection suits evacuated staff and guests, set up a decontamination tent on-site and worked to identify the nature of the powder.
The exercise ran from 10am until 4.30pm and was supported throughout by staff at the new Fire Control at Service Headquarters in Charles Hastings Way, Worcester, and by a Command Suite set up at the same location to help manage the simultaneous incidents.
As well as testing the Fire Control and Command Suite functions, Exercise Cerberus aimed to test the tactical use of airwave radios and arrangements for replacing personal protective equipment (PPE), and on a wider level, to test the Service’s National Resilience response procedures for mass contamination and structural collapse scenarios.
While the individual elements of the training exercise were meticulously planned, those participating were only made aware of the details on the day itself so that their response was fully tested at every level. The Service also used volunteers at the three locations to make each emergency as realistic as possible. This included students from the University of Worcester acting as reporters and casualties at all sites, HWFRS volunteers acting as evacuated residents affected by a chemical vapour cloud, and students on the Public Services course at Worcester College acting as wedding guests.
Group Commander Rob Ball, who co-ordinated the exercise, said: “Exercise Cerberus was a complex operation involving large numbers of firefighters and fire appliances responding to serious emergency incidents at three separate sites. It took many months of planning but the hard work and commitment from all those involved helped make the exercise a true test of our operational preparedness and procedures.
“Initial feedback from the exercise has been extremely positive, with those participating taking away some important learning. It also provided an invaluable insight into our work for our Fire Authority Members and partners who came along to observe the training.”
He added: “The many volunteers who took part in Exercise Cerberus undoubtedly contributed to its success, helping make each incident more realistic and therefore more challenging. I would like to pass on my thanks to them on behalf of the Service for giving up much of their Sunday to help support the exercise.”
He also thanked the owners and staff at the three premises involved in the location – Amcor Flexibles, Richard Lloyds and the Chateau Impney Hotel – for their support, plus Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, West Mercia Police, West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Environment Agency for participating in the exercise. He also passed on his thanks to members of Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority who observed Fire Control and the Command Suite in operation at Service Headquarters and visited the exercise sites as crews responded to the simulated emergencies.