Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

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Merseyside hosts large-scale disaster response exercise

Merseyside hosts large-scale disaster response exercise


Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) played host to urban search and rescue (USAR) colleagues from across Europe this week when it facilitated a large-scale disaster response exercise, in line with the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

The “EU MODEX” saw USAR colleagues from France, Belgium and Estonia descend on Merseyside between 15th and 18th March as both our Training & Development Academy (TDA), in Croxteth, and the disused spur of the Birkenhead Tunnel were transformed into the earthquake-hit “Modulistan”.

Participating teams arrived in the UK on the Friday before setting up their base of operations at Altcar Training Camp. Here they were met by “border control”, role-played by MFRS staff.

They were then deployed to carry out search and rescue operations at either the TDA or tunnel. In Croxteth, Belgian and Estonian USAR teams were met with multiple casualties trapped in derailed trains, overturned buses and buried beneath metres of concrete and mangled metal.

Things weren’t any easier for the French heavy USAR team deployed to the tunnel as they too were faced with numerous casualties trapped in and between crashed and overturned vehicles in the near pitch-black environment.

Preparation and facilitation of the exercise was led by Station Manager Steve Gadsdon, USAR Capability Officer with National Resilience.

He said: “MODEX showcased fantastic international teamwork and gave participating teams the opportunity to put their skills to the test in some extremely challenging and realistic scenarios that my team had spent weeks creating. We made sure it was as challenging and realistic as possible, especially as we knew the Belgian medium USAR team were using the Merseyside MODEX as an opportunity for a trial reclassification ahead of their actual reclassification next year. We didn’t make it easy for them, especially in the tunnel where teams were faced with a pile-up of close to 80 cars.”

During the weekend, observers from Germany, France and the Czech Republic visited the exercise sites, accompanied by colleagues from the Home Office. They were shown around the sites by AM Paul Hitchen, WM Peter Marnick and CM Gareth Best.

SM Gadsdon added: “MODEX was a great success and this was entirely down to the MFRS team that worked tirelessly behind the scenes. Without exception, our guests remarked on how well they had been looked after, how hard our staff worked and how good their attitude was. The participants’ feedback was unanimous in stating that the build and exercise scenario was beyond the normal training events, particularly in terms of ingenuity, realism and challenge. The exercise control team were so impressed with the organisation, support and detail that everyone put into place. The entire team were exemplary ambassadors for MFRS and I am beyond proud of all of them.”

MFRS staff involved in the exercise also included FF Tony Brown, SM Pat Gibbons, CM Chris Robinson, FF Scott Merrills, GM Paul Lawless, SM Steve Hancock, SM Ronnie Duffy, Adele Doran and John Kileen, as well as crews from our own Search & Rescue Team. Neighbouring Fire & Rescue Services also played an instrumental part in ensuring the exercise ran smoothly, as did SM Rob Norman and his team from UKISAR.

Casualty role players were provided by For Real Training and Priestley College.

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