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Large-scale emergency service presence in Bletchley today (Friday 18 March 2022)

Multi-occupancy, high-rise, residential building training exercise due to take place

Tower block of flats

Emergency services from across Thames Valley and its neighbours will be gathering in Milton Keynes today, to exercise complex incident response processes in a real-life setting.

Coordinated and led by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS), the recently vacated Mellish Court tower block in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, will provide the set for a simulated emergency scenario.

The aim of the exercise is to test the capability, response and joint working arrangements partners have in place for an incident at a residential high-rise building.

Firefighters and appliances from Bucks will be joined at the scene by crews from Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, along with colleagues from Thames Valley Police, South Central Ambulance Service and Milton Keynes Council, to provide a realistic large-scale multi-agency response.

Thames Valley Fire Control Service, based in Reading, will also be involved role-playing call-handling and mobilising resources and assets appropriate to the situation as the scenario progresses.

In total there will be approximately 180 people involved, resulting in the largest ever exercise planned by BFRS of this type in Milton Keynes to date.

Jason Naylor, BFRS Station Commander Operational Assurance, who has led the planning and preparation for this large-scale exercise said: “We were presented with the opportunity to exercise at the empty 18-storey Mellish Court by the owners, Milton Keynes Council, before the building is demolished later this year.

“Being purpose-built as a multi-occupancy residential property, this offered us and our partners a fabulous opportunity to put our operational incident command and response tactics, for this type of building, to the test in a true-life environment.”

Over the course of the exercise, the organisations involved hope to test out:

– Operational and incident command tactics for response to a large-scale emergency within a residential high-rise building.

– Implementation of recommendations identified within the Grenfell Tower Phase 1 report.

–  Moving from a stay put evacuation strategy to a simultaneous evacuation strategy.

– Evacuee management process.

– Multi-agency approach to large-scale major incident response.

Jason added: “The opportunity for our firefighters to train in empty high-rise buildings does not come along very often. Today’s exercise will help keep our firefighters well trained so they can continue making Bucks and MK a safe place in which to live, work and travel.

 

Exercise details:

The exercise will start at around 11am in the morning and will run for three to four hours.

During this time there will be a large number of emergency service vehicles parked in and around the area. A variety of uniformed personnel will be present, as well as volunteer role players who will be “occupying” the flats and asked to comply with instructions given to them by the emergency services.

To make the experience as realistic as possible artificial non-hazardous smoke will be in use. White in colour, the smoke will allow specialist search equipment to be used, while also testing firefighter’s skills in a realistic search and rescue scenario.

Cordons will be in place to ensure public safety is maintained and, due to the scale of the exercise, residents have been warned that there may be restricted access to parked vehicles in and around Mellish Court during this time.

Thanks in advance to all partners involved, as well as the following organisations and businesses for their support:

The Royal British Legion, Bletchley

The Denbigh Social Club

Frank Moran Centre

Dolphin Public House

Rapid Relief Team for providing food and refreshments to exercise participants


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