A Knowsley tower block played host to a major training exercise this week when Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) led an exercise to test their response to a major high rise fire.
Around 80 emergency service staff, eight fire engines, two support vehicles and an aerial platform ladder vehicle descended on the unoccupied Gaywood Green, on Broad Lane, Kirkby, on Thursday 22nd July as part of the exercise.
The training day involved a simulation of a fire in Block 4 of Gaywood Green, with actors posing as residents in need of evacuation.
Designed to test a number of areas and give new firefighters the opportunity to experience a realistic fire and evacuation scenario in a high-rise building. It also gave Fire Control Operators the opportunity to put their high rise fire survival guidance techniques to the test.
Gaywood Green is thought to be the only empty high rise building in the country being used by a fire service to undertake live practice scenarios and whilst this high rise exercise in particular is the first of its size since coronavirus, it follows more than 18 months’ worth of smaller-scale exercises at the Kirkby site.
Group Manager Dave Watson said: “While the risk of serious fire in a high rise building in Merseyside is low thanks in large part to our preventative work in the community, the Grenfell Tower tragedy is a constant reminder of what can happen when those risks become real. This exercise gave us a real opportunity to test our current procedures and national guidance, ensuring they are robust, effective and fit for the future.
“We work closely with housing providers and local authorities to ensure the safety of those living within high rise buildings and exercises like this are vital - we would like to thank Livv Housing and the local community for giving us the opportunity to carry out a large exercise in a realistic setting.
GM Watson, added: “Due to the pandemic and to support the safety of our staff, we have been unable to carry out any training exercises of this size for some time. We have of course continued to train our staff on a regular basis but it is great to be able to put their skills truly to the test in such a challenging and realistic scenario.”
The exercise will be thoroughly evaluated and any learning outcomes will be shared both locally and nationally in effort to improve safety for all and hopefully reduce the possibility of future high rise fires.
Tony Cahill, Executive Director at Livv Housing Group, said: “The safety and protection of our residents is of the upmost importance to us, which is why we are proud to be working in partnership with Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service to help them prepare for high rise emergency incidents.
“As far as we are aware, Gaywood Green is the only empty high rise building in the country that is being used by a fire service to undertake live exercises like this, and as a result MFRS will be able to share learnings with other fire services around the country.”
For free fire safety advice or to request a home fire safety check, call 0800 731 5958.
High-rise specific fire safety advice can be found on the MFRS website here: https://www.merseyfire.gov.uk/safety-advice/high-rise-residential-fire-safety/
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service also provides free smoke alarms for Merseyside residents aged 65 or over or those referred by partner agencies.