06 June 2013
Jersey Fire and Rescue staged a fire exercise in the Jersey War Tunnels on Wednesday 5 June.
More than 60 people including full-time firefighters, part-time firefighters and members of the volunteer support team attended the exercise and were joined by the Ambulance Support Unit and Ambulance Service staff.
The exercise simulated a fire in one of the tunnels, with 12 people unable to escape due to the smoke and fire. The 'casualties' were actors and training dummies. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus fought their way through thick smoke and disorientating tunnels to locate and rescue them.
The exercise tested the firefighters’ search and rescue skills, but its main purpose was to test the command and control procedures used at large incidents. This involved setting up of the mobile Command Support Unit and the Operations Centre based at the St Helier HQ.
Station Commander Marc Le Cornu said "Exercises of this nature are a vital way to practice our skills and learn where we need to improve. Locations such as Jersey War Tunnels provide us with a unique test of our skills and command and control procedures and we are very fortunate to have had the full support of the Jersey War Tunnels team with this important exercise."
Training for serious incidents
Jersey War Tunnels Operations Manager Kathy Bechelet said: "The tunnels run over 1 km in length making them perfect for an exercise of this magnitude. We were very happy to assist the Jersey firefighters as its vital that they are able to train for serious incidents. It was an extraordinary experience to be a part of, I know the tunnels like the back of my hand but the smoke makes you lose all sensory awareness. It was a real eye opener for me personally and all of us here have such great respect for what our firefighters do."
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager Andy Bowers watched the exercise with a view to discussing the assistance arrangements between the services. This is necessary when an incident reaches such a large or protracted scale and the local resources are stretched to breaking point, that assistance would be requested from Hampshire Fire and Rescue to send over people and equipment.
Area Manager Bowers said "This was an excellent exercise, well organised, well prepared and well executed by the firefighters on scene. I was impressed by what I saw. Using what I have seen tonight as a framework, we will now discuss the interoperability between our services and determine exactly how we will work together in the event of a major incident on the Island."