Emergency services across the region have tested how they would respond to a major incident – by role playing a blaze at a chemical storage facility.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) last week hosted a multi-agency exercise at the riverside premises in North Shields.
Their firefighters were joined by blue light personnel from Northumbria Police and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to tackle the fictional blaze.
Over the course of three hours, they were tested on their initial response to a report of a tanker that had caught fire and subsequently spread to a nearby storage tank bund.
Emergency services were joined by staff at North Tyneside Council, the Environment Agency, North Tyneside Council, the UK Health Security Agency and the Port of Tyne.
The exercise was one of many held at various premises subject to Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) regulations.
It was designed by exercise planners at TWFRS to test communication between the agencies but also the logistics of managing a major incident at the site.
Area Manager Richie Rickaby, of TWFRS, said: ‘This exercise was a real test of how agencies come together to respond to a major incident and there has been a huge amount of learning.
‘We have fantastic relationships with those partner agencies who took part in the exercise but it is really important that we continue to test our emergency plans.
‘I want to thank everyone who took part and specifically to those individuals who have worked tirelessly in recent months to facilitate the exercise.
‘We carry out tests of this nature on a regular basis and we hope that they do reassure the public, and the sites in question, that we have stringent plans in place to keep our communities safe.’
Superintendent David Pickett, who took part in the exercise as Northumbria Police’s tactical commander, praised the fire service for organising the event.
He said: ‘It was great to collaborate with key partners and share learning as part of this exercise.
‘Testing our collective response to major incidents is vital to make sure we are prepared and ready to respond in the most efficient way possible, if or when the time comes.
‘I would like to take this opportunity to praise the hard work of the fire service for leading on this exercise and all those key agencies and organisations who were involved on the day – I hope this offers reassurance to the communities we serve.’
During the exercise TWFRS appliances were dispatched to the site, the Fire Boat was utilised to rescue dummies from the water and the fire drone was launched.
This tested the emergency service response but injects were also provided to players to test how they would communicate safety messages to the local community.
The site where the exercise took place – details of which have not been published – is one of a number of COMAH sites across Tyne and Wear.
Emergency services have a statutory responsibility to conduct exercises of this nature to test how they would respond in the event of a major incident at the site.