Wales’ emergency services test flooding resilience

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) hosted over 15 organisations, with 250 personnel, from the emergency services and voluntary agencies as part of Exercise Polygon on 12 7 13 April – a resilience test of emergency response should South Wales be hit by severe flooding similar to Cumbria or Somerset.

Locations in Newport, Cardiff and Bridgend were used to create challenging scenarios for the crews involved from the three Welsh FRSs, RNLI, RSPCA Cymru, South Wales and Gwent Police, Maritime & Coastguard Agency, Rapid Relief Team, Cardiff International White Water and other voluntary agencies such as Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA), Civil Aid Voluntary Rescue Association (CAVRA) and the Mountain Rescue Group.

Scenarios included using the International  White Water Centre in Cardiff Bay to replicate a car submerged  in water with casualties trapped inside and people clinging to a fence in fast flowing water.

SWFRS worked with the RSPCA in a horse and rider rescue. The rider was in fact a 30 kilo dummy trapped under a 300 kilo model horse in mud with a rising tide threatening them. Both ‘horse and rider’ were successfully rescued

horse and rider on mud back (c) RSPCA Cymru
Dummy horse and rider are rescued from the mud and incoming tide. Image courtesy of SWFRS

Group Manager Andy Davison from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and Exercise Director said, “It has been a pleasure to welcome my colleagues from across Wales, whether blue lights or voluntary agency, for Exercise Polygon over the last two days. This was one of the biggest exercise in Wales this year and is about ensuring that as a Service and beyond that we are able to effectively deal with flooding incidents, keeping our communities safe and hopefully reducing damage where possible.

“While it is unlikely that South Wales will suffer severe flooding in the immediate future, with the onset of global warming we are seeing an increase of 1 in a 100 year flooding events all around the UK. Exercise Polygon ensures that we are able to mobilise and effectively deal with any flooding incidents that do occur. We also work closely with the Met Office and their teams to monitor the weather systems to ensure that we can alert our communities to any potential flooding in their area.”

Exercise Polygon was established through the All Wales Inland Water Rescue Group, which has members represented from the 15 organisations involved with the Exercise. The hashtag #exploygon was used during the event so take a look at the images and tweets by searching for the hashtag on twitter.

For more information on how to stay safe in and around water, visit www.southwales-fire.gov.uk or www.rnli.org. Look out for CFOA’s upcoming Drowning Prevention campaign from 25 April – 1 May and look out for the hashtag #BeWaterAware.

Information provided by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

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West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service Successfully Tackle Recycling Site Blaze

Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control received over 100 calls alerting them to blaze which involved up to 800 tonnes of metal, mixed plastic and rubber at a scrap metal recycling plant in Saltley, Birmingham.

It was quickly established that this was a significant fire and initially 70 firefighters, 12 fire engines, an aerial platform and a high volume water pumping unit were dispatched in order to tackle the blaze. In addition the service worked to prevent further spread of the fire to other stacks of materials using an on-site digger.

By the early evening support to tackle the fire increased to 17 fire engines and more than 100 firefighters. A multi-agency approach was needed was required due to risk of pollution and impacts on surrounding areas. Agencies included police, ambulance and utility companies.

Drone shot of fire
This shot captured by a drone shows how large the fire was as a firefighter tackles the blaze from above (c) West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service

Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, said: “Fire crews have made progress and the fire has now been surrounded. These types of incidents draw in a lot of resources in the initial stages – this is to prevent the fire spreading. It is likely to be a protracted incident and we will be dealing with the incident for at least the next 24 hours.”

smoke could be seen for miles and Birmingham Airport were informed
The smoke could be seen for miles and as a precaution Birmingham Airport were informed (c) West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service

Close collaboration with the Environment Agency was also required. CFOA and the Environment Agency  recently agreed a National Memorandum of Understanding. This sets out how they will work better together and collaborate when addressing incidents which impact both fire and rescue services and the environment. Operational annexes produced as part of the document include; pollution incident prevention and mitigation and preventing waste and industry site fires.

firefighters tackle blaze
Firefighters also tackled the blaze on the ground and took measures to prevent spread to other recycling stacks and surrounding areas (c) West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service

The work continued right through the night and firefighters were supported with a supply of refreshments from the Rapid Relief Team.

By the morning the fire was under control and the operation beginning to be scaled down by with no reported injuries.

WMFRS dealt with the 2013 fire at a Smethwick recycling plant which is thought to have been started by a Chinese lantern and was the regions largest fire. In that fire over 200 firefighters were deployed and 40 appliances.

More information about this fire and can be found by visiting the

West Midland Fire and Rescue Service webpage.

Firefighter to collect OBE today

A West Midlands firefighter will today visit Buckingham Palace after being awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list. The award was given for his services to national and international search and rescue.

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Group Commander Sean Moore (49), who has spent most of his career based in Coventry where he was brought up, says he is “humbled and honoured” to have been awarded.

West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service outlined why he received the award and his reaction to the news when he found out.

His OBE recognises his dedication to search and rescue which, over more than two decades, has seen him deployed to disaster zones around the world.

Sean was among the personnel who responded to Hurricane Rita in the US, and earthquakes in Turkey, Indonesia, Haiti, New Zealand, Japan and Nepal. Last year he coordinated the UK response to flooding in Bosnia.

His humanitarian work has also included trips to Romania, Bosnia, South Asia, China, the Middle East and Tanzania. In 2014 he coordinated fire and rescue service resources supporting logistics for the UK response to the Ebola crisis.

Married to Sam, with two daughters Katie (18) and Hollie (15), Sean has lived in Brandon near Coventry for 23 years. He went to Cardinal Wiseman secondary school.

He said: “I feel very humbled and honoured to be recognised with the OBE. It was a total surprise – I had to read the letter several times before I understood what it was! I only wish my mum, who passed away five weeks ago, could have been here to see it.

“I see my search and rescue work as an extension of what firefighters do every day. I simply enjoy helping people, especially at their greatest hour of need.

“I get a great deal of satisfaction from working with some of the most highly motivated and professional firefighters and rescue personnel, both in the West Midlands and across the country.

“I have witnessed many distressing situations across the world, where people have quite literally lost everything. It never fails to amaze me how we can, at very short notice, mobilise and deploy our teams to support the rescue and humanitarian missions and do whatever we can to relieve people’s suffering.”

Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer for the West Midlands, said: “Sean’s OBE is fitting recognition for someone who has put service to communities at home and abroad before personal aspiration.

“Sean has made a number of personal sacrifices to undertake his search and rescue work, and I’m sure that his colleagues and people throughout the West Midlands will join me in congratulating him.”

Sean joined West Midlands Fire Service in 1989 after serving in the Royal Navy. He went on to be based at Binley, Canley, Foleshill, and Coventry community fire stations. He has also worked in contingency planning, recruit training and on a number of specialist projects for the service.

Three years ago he began his current secondment to the Chief Fire Officers’ Association’s (CFOA) National Resilience and Assurance Team. He provides guidance and support to fire and rescue services, other agencies and the Government on national resilience issues. These include Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), CBRN, high-volume pumping, flood response and international response.

He is a Capability Advisor for 20 UK-based USAR teams, and also National Coordinator for the UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team supporting 15 fire and rescue services.

Previously, Sean was seconded to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and was part of the project team that introduced Urban Search and Rescue across the UK fire and rescue sector following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US.

He is currently a trainer and evaluator on various courses and exercises for the EU. For the last eight years he has been the Africa, Europe and Middle East representative on the UN International Search and Rescue Advisory Group.

 

Fire services vital role in floods continue

Fire and Rescue services from across the country are continuing to work together to assist with flooding in the North of England.

This is part of the UK National Resilience assets deployment, organised by CFOA.

Firefighters are carrying out vital and dangerous work with communities, in very difficult circumstances. Credit must go to all agencies working together, along with communities who have suffered during the floods.

In addition, the government must recognise support and funding for national resilience must not be understated, to ensure fire and rescue services can respond quickly and effectively to such situations.

Flood rescue assets and pumping assets are being provided to the affected FRS as requested.
The selection, mobilisation and strategic cover is being planned and maintained between the Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor (CFRA), National Strategic Advisory Team (NSAT) and National Resilient Assurance Team (NRAT) officers.

The total number of assets currently deployed to flood related incidents include :
• 11 High Volume Pumps (HVP)
• 9 HVP double hose boxes
• 4 HVP Tactical Advisers
• 21 Flood Rescue boats
• 4 Flood Rescue Tactical Advisers
• 2 X Enhanced Logistics Support (ELS) vehicles

In addition, there are a number of Strategic Holding areas in place.

The work includes regular updates of affected areas to ensure assets can be deployed most effectively, which are being constantly updated as the situation changes.

CFOA Supports National Counter Terrorism Awareness Week 23-29 November 2015

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The recent attacks in France and Mali have once again brought home the real and ever present danger posed by terrorism. This week CFOA joins many organisations across the country in supporting National Counter Terrorism Awareness Week and promoting the steps than can be taken to help prevent an attack within the UK.

Every day this week, police will be focusing on different issues of counter terrorism and terrorist threats from attack planning; protecting business and crowded places; cyber attacks; and online extremism and radicalisation.

Key areas for consideration will be:

  • Public vigilance online and off
  • Industry preparedness for cyber attack
  • Raising Awareness of the threat from online extremism
  • Protecting hardware – are you aware?

Given the heightened threat levels currently in place across continental Europe, the need for increased vigilance and awareness to help ensure that the UK is in the best position to deter and detect potential terrorist threats is clear.

Everyone has a role to play in keeping the UK safe from terrorism and vigilance is key; if you suspect it, report it. Nobody is better placed to detect something that is out of place in their communities than the people living in them. Suspicious activity should be reported by calling the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

Whilst the current threat level to the UK from international terrorism is severe, the key message is to be alert, but not alarmed.

For further information please visit  The National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) website, which provides both sector specific and general guidance to help prevent, protect and mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack in the UK.

Incident Command Conference – Day Two

For the final day of our Incident Command Conference, we were joined by a number of specialist experts looking at command and leadership in a range of contexts.

Robert Herring, a performance coach currently working with the Army, talked delegates through how decisions are made under pressure and how an individual can become more resilient and improve their situational awareness through techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training.

Andrew St George and Sharon Curry used examples from the Royal Navy’s leadership framework, written by Andrew, and the research which has taken place during the Antarctic Endurance 2016 programme, to illustrate the role, importance and necessity of leadership in a command context. During their presentation to the conference, they emphasised how culture, personal qualities and the ethos of the organisation combine to impact on the leadership behaviour of an individual.

Professor Jonathan Crego, creator and owner of the Minerva and Hydra Strategic Management Simulation Systems, presented delegates with a number of videos and scenarios to encourage debate around the term ‘decision making’. Jonathan also examined the use of ‘consequence choosing’ as an alternative term.

Our final speaker, CFOA Director of Operations, Roy Wilsher, outlined ‘Our Role in Shaping Tomorrow’s Commanders’ and reinforced the importance of Incident Command both during incidents and in upholding the reputation of the Fire and Rescue Service. Roy also discussed the value of investing in relevant and realistic training and highlighted a number of key areas which will be considered by CFOA to progress work in this area further.

We’d like to thank all speakers and delegates who joined us for this conference and Stratford. The presentations will be made available via cfoaservices.co.uk soon.

Incident Command Conference – Day One

This week, the National Operational Guidance Programme (NOGP), issued the latest guidance document for the UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) on Incident Command. To coincide with the publication, CFOA is hosting an Incident Command conference with 100 representatives from 37 FRSs in attendance.

Conference Chair, Simon Pilling, CFOA Operational Effectiveness Lead and Chief Fire Officer of West Yorkshire FRS, set the scene for the day and thanked all those involved in the production of the guidance, with particular reference to today’s speakers, the CFOA National Operations Committee and the NOGP team.

John Baines, Tyne and Wear FRS, led the afternoon’s presentations providing an overview of the review and the guidance that followed. This review sought to focus on an ‘all hazards’ approach to command, an approach which is a unique preserve of the UK FRS, and to promoting assertive, effective and safe incident command. John outlined the key issues in this guidance which differ from the models and thinking applied in previous editions and discussed what this means practically for FRSs.

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, London Fire Brigade, then presented her research to the conference. The research, which informed the production of the guidance, is the first of its kind in the UK on the psychology of command and was developed after analysing the decision making processes of Incident Commanders in six FRSs.

Andy Bowers, Hampshire FRS, discussed the concept of ‘Operational Discretion’ and how this way of thinking enables Incident Commanders to make decisions which keep firefighters and the public safe, during incidents which require a more flexible approach.

Finally, Dr Michael Humann provided an overview of the work of the research team of the Centre for Critical and Major Incident Psychology at the University of Liverpool, with particular reference to the Joint Endeavour exercise. The exercise, held last September in Merseyside, gave the team an opportunity to research the decision making process in a multi-agency environment.