Cleveland RAYNET Group
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Exercise Blue Star was organised by the Asst. Chief Constable (Operations) of Cleveland Police. Its main aim was to test and practise the mobilisation and deployment of the Voluntary Services. These would consist of RAYNET, Red Cross, Special Constabulary, St John Ambulance and WRVS.
Although the professional Emergency Services and Local Authority Emergency Planning Department would be heavily involved, the Voluntary Services were expected to take the major roles at the exercise.
Each organisation to be involved in the exercise provided two or more umpires or assessors. These umpires attended the planning meetings and would attend the event as umpires, so couldn't fill any operational roles on the day. We tried various attempts at bribery, but the two RAYNET umpires wouldn't drop any hints as to the exercise scenario, time or location.
Before the exercise started, the umpires would attend a briefing at Stockton-on-Tees Police Station. They would be issued with armbands identifying them as umpires. They would practise saying, "Sorry, I can't answer that, as I am not really here. I am an umpire and you should pretend that you can't see me."
The gymnasium at Stockton Police would be used to brief the umpires, casualties and evacuees. It would also become the "casualty hospital" for the purpose of the exercise.
For exercise purposes, the briefing of the Voluntary Services would not take place until all personnel had assembled near the incident area. This would be artificial, but was planned this way to prevent people who lived locally from getting all of the work done before people arrived from more distant areas such as Redcar and Hartlepool.
At 14:00 hrs an ICI chemical tanker driven by xxxxxxx of yyyyyyyy, deviated
from his route to visit the Teesside Industrial Estate. He was travelling
along Sadler Forster Way from the direction of Allison
Avenue towards Jay Avenue when his vehicle went out of control. The tanker
collided with a private coach carrying workmen to the nearby Armstrong Cork
Factory and the coach was overturned. Both drivers are unconscious and
many workmen seriously injured.
Senior Officers of the Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance Services arrived at
the scene at 14:15 hrs and the Mobile Police Station has been set up as a
Forward Control Point on the car park of Armstrong Cork Ltd. This will be
used as a rendezvous point for all services.
The police control room called out the Voluntary Services using standard records of telephone callout lists.
At 14:34 hrs, Cleveland RAYNET Group Controller was called out.
There has been an RTA between a bus and a tanker carrying toluene near Armstrong
Cork Ltd., Teesside Industrial Estate. The road approach route
was given. Report to the senior police officer at the Forward
Control point in Armstrong Cork's car park for instructions.
RAYNET arrived at the incident area at 14:51 hrs. The senior police officer asked RAYNET to provide communications at:-
It was standard procedure for all first aiders from the Red Cross and St John Ambulance to assemble at Red Cross HQ when called to assist at a Major Incident. As long as communications existed, they could be deployed from there to where they were needed. RAYNET arrived at the Red Cross HQ at 15:00 hrs.
At 15:09 hrs, the RAYNET home network was closed down. Eleven members had been available and mobilised. A further two members were already attending as umpires or assessors.
The senior police officer at Forward Control was told at 15:20 hrs that all four requested locations were now manned by RAYNET operators.
At 15:58 hrs, St John Ambulance asked RAYNET to provide communications at the actual incident site, 300 yards from the Forward Control. The Incident Site turned out to be a stretch of road with a chemical tanker across the road and a bus on its side with lots of groans and shouts coming from it. Some people were staggering around covered in blood and with bones protruding from places where bones shouldn't protrude. The road in the vicinity of the crash was covered in water, or perhaps it was toluene?
The WRVS manned the Rest Centre. The first aiders and Special Constables dealt with casualties and the evacuation of local residents, some of whom were elderly or disabled. Casualties would be transported to hospital by ambulances. Evacuees would be transported to the Rest Centre by buses.
The first User Service message was sent by RAYNET at 16:02 hrs. This was from Control to the Rest Centre and said that the first bus of evacuees was heading their way. The second was from the Incident Site to Control at 16:04 hrs and instructed all ambulances to go to the Incident Site.
At 16:15 hrs, there was a message from the Incident Site to Control saying that all casualties had been extracted from the crashed bus and would be transported to hospital.
The WRVS sent messages from evacuees at the Rest Centre, requesting Special Constables to find a dog called Patch and a cat called Flossie who lived near the incident. At 16:45 hrs, the WRVS sent a message to Control requesting Special Constables to search for a child which had wandered away from the Rest Centre.
Casualties made a rapid recovery once they'd reached the hospital. The volunteer evacuees were returned from whence they came. It isn't certain if Patch, Flossie or the wandering child were found.
A debrief meeting took place in the Conference Room at Cleveland Police Headquarters at a later date.
The callouts had gone well for all organisations and the general consensus was that the exercise had also gone well, although these events will always show up some problems. There was quite a delay in turnouts as so many people attended from distant towns.
The Fire Brigade reinforced the dangers of attempting to rescue people trapped in vehicles.
The Red Cross and St John Ambulance said that they had no aims or objectives for the exercise as all details had been kept secret. They normally act as back-ups for the National Health Service and County Ambulance Service and expect to work under their command. Because such emphasis had been place on the Voluntary Services doing so much of the work at the exercise, there was little control at the incident. There had been some over-enthusiasm and leadership had broken down.
They had identified a greater need for communications within their organisations and also between St John Ambulance and the Red Cross.
There was some reluctance to use personal first aid equipment under exercise conditions and this may have accounted for some of the poor bandaging.
The WRVS indicated that their only real problem was a standardised form for the registration of evacuees arriving at the Rest Centre. They asked advice about the use of gas bottles within the Rest Centre and the Fire Brigade stated that gas bottles should have been kept outside with the supply piped in.
RAYNET said that there was some considerable delay before their services were sought due to no Liaison Officers from the other voluntary organisations being available. RAYNET needs designated people from each organisation with the function of accepting incoming messages for their organisation and providing outgoing messages from their organisation.
A general discussion took place and it was the feeling of those present that grid references for precise locations should be used by all organisations involved in such an incident, in addition to road names or other descriptions.
The Red Cross stated that an exercise of this magnitude was way beyond the capabilities of the Voluntary Services to organise and that it had been most helpful.
The Assistant Chief Constable concluded the meeting by saying that the exercise had identified a number of areas in which there was a need for training and invited organisations to carry out more internal mini exercises. Needs for communication, integration of the Voluntary Services and leadership training had been identified.
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Page updated on 09 January 2017