40 casualties in rail, road and flooding disaster: Behind the scenes at major training exercise

The Westmorland Gazette: Actors and dummies took part in the training exercise Actors and dummies took part in the training exercise

ALMOST 200 emergency workers turned out to a rail, road and flooding disaster that was staged in Carnforth as part of a training exercise.

Around 100 members of staff from Lancashire rescue agencies took part in rescuing 40 casualties, played by a mixture of actors and life-sized dummies, during a two-day operation to ensure they are fully prepared for a real-life event.

“It was a nightmare scenario that we hope will never happen,” said Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman, John Taylor.

“But the point is that although each agency has their own skills and they have used them in major incidents – for example the Grayrigg derailment – it’s in everyone’s interests to know they can rely on all services working together should it be necessary.”

Around 50 people from the participating agencies also looked on to evaluate the progress of staff as they battled to rescue members of the public from a supposed bus and train collision, which was being worsened by serious flooding.

The scenario was set up close to the town’s train station and involved workers from the fire service, Lancashire Police, British Transport Police, RNLI, the RAF and the North West Ambulance Service, among others.

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Underwater divers attended from Buckinghamshire to learn from the event, dubbed ‘Operation Mallard’.

Actors, playing casualties and fatalities, were recruited from the University of Central Lancashire and an organisation called the ‘Casualty Bureau’.

“It’s not something that we do often,” said Mr Taylor. “But there’s a very serious reason for it – and practice makes perfect.”

He explained that the operation took around two months of planning and although he was unable to say what the cost was, he said using the RAF’s Sea King helicopter will have been the most expensive part of the day.

Throughout the day Mr Taylor put pictures of the scene on Twitter, which showed old rail carriages, a decommissioned bus and even a plastic horse that fell ‘victim’ to the crash.

The pictures also showed emergency workers having ‘tactical discussions’ while Salvation Army staff brought ‘essential sustenance’ for emergency workers. The operation then continued on Sunday when staff focussed on the administrative side of a disaster.

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