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Exercise tests multi-agency response to major collision

Date: 27th April, 2016

A three-day exercise to test the emergency response to, and aftermath of, a serious collision started on 26 April 2016.

The collision – involving two large coaches, a minibus, a lorry, a bicycle and five cars – was staged at a site near Ringwood Road in West Moors.

Around 70 volunteers, including role-players from the charity Casualties Union, simulated a range of injuries to bring the exercise to life for emergency responders. Nineteen realistic mannequins were also placed to represent people with more severe injuries or who had died at the scene.

The day ran as a ‘live play’ scenario, meaning that personnel acted as though the exercise was real, following a series of 999 calls to the emergency services at around 9:20am. The first police officers at the scene quickly identified the scale of the incident, putting in place established plans for a multi-agency major incident response.

The response at the collision site involved colleagues working together from Dorset Police, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, South West Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust, British Red Cross, Dorset County Council, Bournemouth Borough Council and East Dorset District Council. Journalists were also invited to take part, to test how information would be made available to the public.

Actors playing injured people who were fit to walk were taken to a Survivors’ Reception Centre at the West Moors Memorial Hall, set up by the local councils with support from the Rapid Relief and St John Ambulance charities. These provide welfare and practical support to people affected by major incidents, while allowing minor injuries to be treated and for the police to start formally identifying people involved.

Station Manager Richard Coleman from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, who directed the exercise, said: “Today provided a useful opportunity to test the multi-agency response to a major collision. Fortunately real incidents of this nature are rare, but that also means we need to make use of exercises to test our plans and make sure our staff are up-to-speed with the latest practice.

“Over the three days, around 700 people will be involved, from a wide range of organisations across Dorset. I am also incredibly grateful for all the volunteers – both individuals and from charities – who make this possible. I would finally like to thank the Ministry of Defence for allowing us to use a very realistic and suitable site, without the impact we would have by staging this on a public road.

“Emergency responders do not know the scenario they will face in advance, which makes their response as real as it can be. While it is incredibly important to carry out these exercises, which is why we involve a lot of staff, I can reassure the public that we plan our resources to retain a normal response to any real incidents that take place.”

Detective Inspector Mark Samuel, who leads Dorset Police’s approach to victim recovery and identification, added: “When dealing with major incidents, all responders will work hard to save life where they can, while treating anyone who has died with the utmost of dignity and respect. Away from the fast-paced response at the scene, lots of other plans come into action.

“We made use of a Survivors’ Reception Centre today and on the second day will be exercising how we reunite injured people with their families, and how we support the loved ones of people who have died. It is also important that we investigate the cause of any incident and this will continue.”

The exercise will move into a different phase for the next two days. Some police investigation and recovery will continue at the West Moors scene, with the process for contacting family members tested as people are identified.

New scenes will also be set up in Bournemouth – a Friends and Family Reception Centre where people injured in the collision will be reunited with loved ones, and the mortuary where processes to deal with multiple fatalities will be tested.

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