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Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service - Preventing, Protecting, Responding

Service leads successful multi-agency exercise

30/06/2017

Station Manager Martin Weaver speaks to colleague from Staffordshire Police
Station Manager Martin Weaver speaks to colleague from Staffordshire Police

Firefighters from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have taken part in a successful multi-agency exercise.

“My role as the incident commander was to coordinate the response and I feel that crews successfully handled the incident, bringing things to a safe conclusion. Those involved will now take part in a full debrief to discuss the exercise and highlight any points of learning that can be shared with colleagues around the county.”

Station Manager Martin Weaver

The exercise involved a staged incident at Stanhope House, a high rise block of flats in Lichfield Street, Tamworth, and took place between 10.30am and 12.30pm on Friday June 30.

The exercise was planned several months ago and organisers decided to continue with the training scenario despite the recent tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London. It forms part of the Service’s regular preparation work which is designed to test incident command and fire crew’s ability to respond to a variety of incidents.

Fire Control mobilised crews from Tamworth, Cannock, Barton-under-Needwood, Chase Terrace and colleagues from Atherstone (Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service) to a made-up report that an elderly couple had dialled 999 after their kitchen began to fill with smoke from their cooker, which had been left switched on.

Colleagues from Staffordshire Police attended to put a cordon in place around the building, closing the surrounding streets to the public to allow unobstructed access for the fire appliances. Colleagues from West Midlands Ambulance Service were also called to attend to any casualties. Five volunteers took on the role of casualties.

The incident was staged on the roof of the building, some 15 floors high, testing the firefighter’s ability to quickly reach the fire and operate the dry riser system within the building. This is a pipe system which allows water to be pumped to where it is needed and connected to a hose.

The incident commander, Station Manager Martin Weaver, instructed the crew manager to set-up a bridgehead two floors below the incident. This area was used to prepare crews with breathing apparatus before they approached the roof.

Crews also had to evacuate residents (volunteers) from flats between the bridgehead and the incident. This in itself presented problems, with the lift out of action crews had to carefully carry/lead them to safety. Colleagues from West Midlands Ambulance Service were then on hand to treat anyone suffering with smoke inhalation (volunteers feigned symptoms).

The exercise was an opportunity for the incident commander and crews to put their training and skills into practice, alongside colleagues from West Midlands Ambulance Service and Staffordshire Police.

Station Manager Martin Weaver said: “We understand the increased public concern over high rise building fire safety following the tragic incident at Grenfell Tower in London.

“However, this exercise was planned several months ago and the incident scenario of a kitchen fire is particularly relevant in Staffordshire. Between April 2016 and May 2017, there have been 424 fires in kitchens, and 260 of those were caused by cooking.

“We thought very carefully about whether we should go ahead with this exercise but ultimately felt that it would reassure residents that we take fire safety in high rise buildings very seriously. As well as demonstrating that we are sufficiently prepared to respond if a fire was to happen at such a building in Staffordshire.

“While planning the exercise we worked closely with Tamworth Borough Council to make sure that all of the residents living in Stanhope House, and the surrounding blocks, were aware that the exercise was happening and thanked them in advance for tolerating the disruption, although we did our best to make sure it was minimal.

“Throughout the exercise we used social media to keep the community updated about what was happening and reassure the wider public that this was an exercise.

“My role as the incident commander was to coordinate the response and I feel that crews successfully handled the incident, bringing things to a safe conclusion. Those involved will now take part in a full debrief to discuss the exercise and highlight any points of learning that can be shared with colleagues around the county.”