Cleveland RAYNET Group

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Exercise Prang was organised by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.  It was a simulated major incident to test the actions of railway staff and the response of the emergency services.  Except for certain officers in each organisation, it was a no notice event.

The location of the incident site was chosen as it had no cell phone coverage and emergency services' radio systems didn't work in that area.  Lack of communications near the incident would make co-ordination more difficult.

In addition, the only road giving access to the incident was a very narrow forest track with an unmade surface on a steep hill.  That presented a problem in getting rescue staff to the incident as well as evacuating casualties.

The sixty volunteer casualties and train passengers were mainly provided by the National Parks Wardens.  They were made up to look suitably gruesome at the Memorial Hall in Pickering.  They walked to the railway station (possibly scaring the public) and boarded a train.  The train departed from Pickering and when it reached the unmanned level crossing at Farwath, it "crashed" into a delivery van which had been crossing the railway line.  The van ended up on its side next to the track.

Having no cell phone or railway staff radio coverage at the incident site, some passengers wandered off into the forest to find a telephone to summon assistance.  They got lost in the forest.

The footplate crew had been incapacitated by the crash.  The train guard at the rear, in accordance with safety rules for an unplanned static train on a single line track, placed a series of detonators on the track, starting at a distance of 300 yards from the train.  The wheels of any moving train approaching the static train would explode the detonators and warn the driver of danger.

The railway company knew that the train had passed a signal box but had not reached the next one.  Telephone calls were made, but no more information was available.  The railway staff became concerned.

Having protected the train with detonators and having made a quick check on the number of casualties, the train guard set off walking in the forest and found a farm with a telephone.  He dialled 999 to summon the emergency services.  

The police sent a car to the incident and telephoned the railway company at Grosmont Station to report that a train crash had occurred.  The railway staff put their emergency response plan into action.  They informed working staff what had happened and telephoned staff not on duty and asked them to report to work.  As road access to the incident was very limited, a rescue train would be organised to leave Pickering Station.

The Fire & Rescue Service sent fire engines to the incident.  The ambulance service sent ambulances.  In addition, the emergency services sent their major incident control and communications vehicles to a rendezvous point (RVP) on a hill, half a mile from the incident.  Paramedics were sent to Pickering Station to go on the rescue train.

At the RVP, officers manned a Silver Control and the difficulty of the single lane rough forest access road was realised.  Four wheel drive vehicles were the only reliable means of driving on that rough forest track. Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team were called out.

A field near the RVP was designated as a landing site.  Fencing was removed from the field to give access.  The Great North Air Ambulance and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance were summoned to attend and land at the designated map reference.  As these small helicopters have no winches, the plan was to use 4WD ambulances and Mountain Rescue Land Rovers to ferry casualties from the crash site up the hill to the RVP.  The Mountain Rescue Team were also tasked with searching the forest for train passengers who had got lost while trying to find a telephone.

RAF Leconfield Search & Rescue Flight has a large Sea King helicopter with winching facilities, so that was also summoned.

A Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) was established to carry out triage.  Those with the most serious injuries were treated and evacuated first.  Scarborough Hospital was alerted to expect exercise casualties.

Not being able to get a fire engine close to the crash, Fire Service personnel carried cutting and rescue gear to the incident.  They cut off the rear doors of the van and extracted the casualties.  Ladders were carried to the train to get rescue personnel into it and casualties out of it.

The rescue train reached the incident.  Passengers and walking wounded were transferred from one train to the other.  Badly injured people were placed on stretchers and driven up the hill in Land Rover ambulances to the helicopters.

In the planning stages of the exercise, great attention had been paid to the safety of people and the environment.  The van had no oil or diesel fuel, so that when it was placed on its side near the train, there was no risk of vehicle fluids polluting Pickering Beck which runs alongside the railway.  The Fire Service provided the scrap van for the exercise.  They transported it to the area.  The local farmer used his 4WD tractor to lift the van, take it to the railway line and place it on its side.

The volunteer train passengers had been checked in at the Memorial Hall and counted.  When they boarded the train, they were counted again.  At the end of the exercise, it was checked that they were all accounted for.

The train passengers had been on the exercise long before the emergency services were involved.  It was a windy day and as the crashed train had no heating, some people were quite cold.  Blankets were ordered for urgent delivery from the RVP down to the incident.

The railway manager in charge at Gold Control knew that there would be an exercise on that day, but had no details of when or what would happen.

All locations involved in the exercise had umpires and observers, identified by blue tabards.  Radio operators from Richmond, Cleveland, Nidderdale and Leeds RAYNET Groups attended all locations to provide communications for setting the scene, controlling and monitoring the exercise.  Talk-through units (radio repeaters) were established on high points to provide a radio network which allowed all RAYNET operators to hear all others.

The incident site was away from civilisation and the few local residents had been informed of what would take place, so they wouldn't be too concerned at all the emergency vehicles in the area driving with blue lights and sirens.  A farmer offered a field as a helicopter landing site and was assured that any damage to fences etc. would be put right after the event.  A farmer near the incident gave great assistance by placing and later removing the scrap van, using his tractor.

RAYNET operators either on foot with hand portable radios or in vehicles were allocated to:  Exercise Director, Deputy Exercise Director, Pickering Memorial Hall, Pickering Station, Gold Control at Grosmont Station, Silver Control at the RVP, Yorkshire Ambulance Service at the incident site, Emergency Planning Officer at the incident site, the crash train and the rescue train.  Written radio message logs were kept at two RAYNET locations.  All radio traffic was recorded using a PC program described here:  Downloads

It was a very interesting exercise for RAYNET and the emergency services.  Some were quite jealous when RAYNET at the incident said that the farmer and his wife had very kindly provided bacon and egg sandwiches at the crash site.  That is the sort of thing which happens at real incidents.  Members of the public want to help out in any way they can.

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Page updated on 09 January 2017

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