A Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue training day has been hailed a success, after the County’s emergency services worked together on a staged train derailment.
With sights of two derailed trains, the sounds of screaming passengers and bodies laid out on the cold, muddy ground, you would be forgiven for thinking that a train depot in Sandiacre was home to a real life disaster.
However, the scenes were set by Nottinghamshire’s emergency service teams, in order to take part in a train derailment exercise.
The exercise, referred to as Operation Rosedale, was part of a unique link up between the UK’s leading rail freight operator DB Schenker Rail UK and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service. Vicky Brown, Communications Manager for the Fire and Rescue service, said: “It was designed to test plans and procedures for an integrated multi-agency response to a large scale emergency incident. This included the rescue of multiple casualties and risk management after chemical spillages.”
There were over 100 firefighters, including hazardous materials officers and specialist rescue teams, who used a range of fire appliances and special resources throughout the exercise.
“The day was a training tool to exercise our processes and safe systems at work” Richard Cropley, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Station Manager
Richard Cropley, a Station Manager for Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue, helped set the event up: “The training day was about bringing a number of agencies together to help resolve what would be a major incident. It was a training tool to exercise our processes and safe systems at work and our command procedures on both our own level and a multi-agency one too. It was also incredibly important as it allowed our crews to work to our procedures and to use our specialist recue equipment in a situation that is as close to a real disaster as possible and on such a large scale.”
Observers and marshals from the range of services were testing their staff to their limits. One train held passengers, while the other was a freight train made to look like it was carrying a highly corrosive and poisonous chemical. John Wilkinson is from the National Chemical Emergency Centre, the service that the Fire and Rescue crews call when there has been a dangerous chemical spill for advice: “The chemical in the training was molten phenol, which is corrosive so it can burn you and blind you. It’s also incredibly toxic and it produces fumes that could cause people to collapse.
“The training is great because it make the crews aware that they need lots of protection and masks on before they can just go in to the situation and start getting casualties out, to prevent themselves from becoming casualties themselves.”
While the services worked together to get train passengers and staff to safety, other important government departments from Nottingham came to assess the situation too. A spokesperson from the Environmental Agency explained that while their role may not be an obvious one, it is just as important: “The chemicals can pollute the ground and water courses and cause air pollution. We work with people to make sure that they are contained where possible, so, above all else, we can protect human health but protect the environment as well.”
Exercises like this play a huge part in the excellent training given to Nottinghamshire’s local emergency services. While the county’s crews hope that extreme cases like this would never happen, the day has provided them with new and improved skills, that can be used across a range of everyday scenarios.
Richard Cropley believes that his crew are now ‘better prepared’ for major incidents and that these training days, despite them being costly and using a huge range of resources, are vital:”Naturally we hope we will never have to deal with an incident of this magnitude, but we will always take any opportunity we can to train and develop our rescue skills in a range of scenarios.
“Clearly these exercises are expensive, but there is no way that the training could be recreated through doing a table top exercise. They are vitally important to making sure that not only the emergency services but all the other agencies that would likely be involved in the incident can work together and do it effectively.”