Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) held a large scale emergency training exercise, testing NIFRS’s operational ability to respond to a major incident involving a road traffic collision between vehicles and a subsequent water rescue resulting from the incident.
Over 30 Firefighters and 5 Fire Appliances, including Specialist Appliances from across Southern Area Command, were involved in responding to the mock up incident at the Kinnego Marina/Oxford Island yesterday (Sunday 19th June). Partner agencies involved in the exercise included Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), Lough Neagh Rescue and Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol.
The aim of this exercise was to test the operational response, procedures and resilience of appliances following a road traffic collision and water rescue. It was also an opportunity to enhance working relations between partner agencies and to emphasise contingency arrangements for this type of emergency.
NIFRS Southern Area District Commander Victor Spence said: “Firefighters, as first responders to road traffic collisions see at first hand the devastation caused on our roads. In what is an already harrowing incident, to have the possibility of a subsequent water rescue added certainly tests all of the resources at our disposal. Due to the location of this simulation incident, this could be a reality and one which we need to be prepared.
“This simulated incident enabled us to test numerous operational policies and procedures in relation to our major incident plan. It also allowed us to test interoperability between partner agencies within the area and enhanced our capability in protecting our community.
“We are well prepared and well-rehearsed in readiness for these types of incidents, nonetheless this exercise was extremely valuable and there are learning points for all the agencies involved.
“I would like to thank Kinnego Marina, Oxford Island, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Lough Neagh Rescue and Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol for their co-operation and assistance in making the scenario as real as possible”.
PSNI Constable Colin Moore said, “We were delighted to have taken part in this worthwhile exercise. It was designed to test the response of the emergency services to a major incident. This is about partnership. It is vital that we are in position to respond to any scenario as a major emergency can occur anywhere not just at this location. We hope that we can build on learning of this event.
“We can achieve more when working together than we ever could going it alone and we will all continue to work together to ensure that we have effective multi-agency plans in place so we can respond to any incident where ever it happens.”
Sky Watch Chief Pilot Paul Trimble said “Utilising our Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) we were able to assist the other agencies achieve a successful outcome to this training event. When the various teams work together we are able to leverage each other strengths. Regular training helps all of us to be prepared for incidents as they happen.”
A spokesperson for Lough Neagh Rescue (LNR) said: “Lough Neagh Rescue was delighted to take part in Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service’s ‘Water Babies’ simulation on Sunday, as it was an ideal opportunity to refresh and test our skills in a multi-agency exercise.
“LNR has previously worked with emergency services smaller scale incidents and simulations, but this realistic and well organised practice operation gave crew from all three of our stations the chance to work alongside professional emergency services – whilst building on our skills and expertise.
“A big thanks from LNR. We hope to be involved in future exercises that will help keep up our good working relationship with other emergency services.”