Exercise Shannon - exclusive preview

Published:  02 May, 2012

A major UK multiagency exercise is to take place in the south coast home of multiple top tier COMAH sites on 4-5 May.

Exercise Shannon will take place in Fawley, Hampshire, and involve all the emergency services including ambulance Hazardous Area Response Teams, Roads Policing units and police hazmat personnel. The main industrial partners are Exxon Mobil, FloGas and Calor Gas, and staff from the Environment Agency will also be in attendance. 

During the two-day exercise the Fire and Rescue Services National Control Centre will contact a number of brigades from around the UK for the mobilisation on a national scale of a number of high volume pumps (HVPs). The HVPs will make their way to a forward strategic holding area in an impressive blue lights convoy escorted by Hampshire Constabulary. 

As well as Hampshire’s high volume pump, HVPs will be mobilised from the Isle of Wight, Dorset, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and Berkshire. 

Station Manager Mick Thompson stated: ‘We are going to simulate a failure of the pump that supplies fire water and process cooling water to multiple top and lower tier COMAH sites in the area. 

‘The hose line will be run to two different points, one of which will be 20-30 metres above sea level. The water supply will be taken from a fresh water lake containing over 3 million litres of water. We will also be supplying a couple of trailer-mounted monitors to prove that we have a usable water supply.’

During phase 1 of the exercise a temporary water maim will be established using in excess of 3km of hose and 7 high volume pumps. 

The temporary fresh water main will be used to address two separate incidents that will be taking place in different areas of the COMAH site, one of which will be a Hazmat incident involving three casualties, and which will require a team from the Police Forensic Collision Investigation unit.

 In addition to emergency activities, Exercise Shannon will also be testing how the police manage the ‘business-as-usual’ processes of the COMAH site, in particular keeping to a minimum disruptions of tanker deliveries to and from the site. 

Silver Command will be set up in Hardley Fire Station, and it will comprise all the senior officers and managers who will be supporting the incident and planning for an extended scenario over a number of days, explained Mick Thompson: ‘We will be ensuring that our response can be maintained over a period of time whilst ensuring everyone has a CRIP (commonly recognised incident picture). We will be looking at a variety of issues, from managing nearby residents to considering sites of scientific interest that are close by. 

‘We’ve been talking about Exercise Shannon since October, and we are really pleased that everyone has been keen to get involved. The police especially have pulled a lot of resources for this weekend to make it work.’

 

Communications

An important aim of Shannon is to test interagency communications using TETRA radios. 

After HVP mobilisation is requested by the National Control Centre using the dedicated channel, HVPs will be escorted to a holding area. 

‘This is a real opportunity to call the other brigades and test the Airwave radio comms with Hampshire Police, who are going to do this as if it was a real incident,’ commented Watch Commander Chas McGill. 

Hampshire FRS’s officers will be issued with TETRA radios by Hampshire Constabulary for the duration of the exercise. The firefighters will have received appropriate training in using talk groups for the purpose of the exercise in order to communicate with all the attending fire brigades, police personnel and silver command when appropriate. 

‘Our vehicles have TETRA radios but currently our officers don’t have their own terminals. The exercise will test our officers in their use of national talk groups. 

‘Interoperability is an issue that continues to be problematic as shown in previous multiagency exercises. We are going to make it work,’ said Chas McGill. 

Station Manager Mick Thompson added: ‘We will be testing the facility to talk point to point, so a Bronze commander will be able to speak directly with his counterpart in the police.’

Fire officers taking part in the convoy of HVPs will be guided into the scene by VIP convoy officers using the hailing channel, and upon arrival will be advised by Hampshire FRS to move to an emergency interoperable channel (ES3) for the duration of the live exercise. ‘Deliberately we’ve ensured that normal communications don’t work in these areas so comms-wise the participants will have to use Airwave,’ concluded Chas McGill.

 

Joined-up command and control 

Roads Policing officer and Hazmat Advisor Mike Batten is playing a key role in the exercise. He has been involved in four hazmat exercises in the Southampton area, including a scenario involving a container leaking phosphorus on a ro-ro ship: ‘Our past exercises have proved what we already knew – currently if the police lose contact with the firefighter on the ground then there is no way of renewing contact: as soon as a firefighter goes into the hot zone that’s it.’ 

When this occurs, flows of information between agencies have to go via the respective services’ forward commanders and command and control rooms, resulting in time delays. 

Batten hopes this latest exercise will play an important part in a future comms strategy for Hampshire: ‘Exercise Shannon will be feeding into a wider local project that aims to work towards a unified command and control and communications package. 

‘That is partially why we are providing Hampshire Fire & Rescue with police issue handheld Airwave radios, so we can now talk to them when they are forward.’ 

It is hoped that Exercise Shannon will prove the necessity and practicality of having a joined-up command and control where all officers on the ground will be fully supported by communications, at all times. 

Mike Batten added that although communications were a major part of Exercise Shannon, there were further training criteria being met by the project: ‘It also gives the hazmat advisors the opportunity to work with their counterparts in fire and HART (hazardous area response team). It exposes Roads Policing officers to hazmat incidents at an RTI, and they will see hazmat advisors at work facilitating between the different services using Airwave. So we are trying to pull together many threads that up to now hadn’t been brought together before.’

The editorial team behind Fire & Rescue magazine, Industrial Fire Journal and British APCO Journal will be covering the two-day event: watch this space.

  • Operation Florian

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