Firefighters go back to school to test ‘major incident’ response

19 February 2019

Potential new recruits, Service development

More than 70 firefighters took part in a training exercise on Tuesday 19 February that involved Kent Fire and Rescue Service responding to two large fires in different parts of the county. ‘Exercise HighPlex’ gave KFRS the opportunity to test procedures when dealing with multiple ‘major incidents’.

The main activity of the training exercise involved a simulated fire that took place at the now derelict Foxwood School in Seabrook Road, Hythe. The simulated incident replicated the conditions that blue light emergency crews might face during an incident of this type in a complex building environment. The exercise involved staff and vehicles from across the Service, and other partner agencies including South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), to allow everyone to test arrangements already in place for supporting each other during such incidents.

Exercise HighPlex saw KFRS crews using specialist equipment including a height vehicle and breathing apparatus to fire fight and to carry out evacuation and search and rescue within a complex building scenario. The training exercise also saw KFRS implement ‘command and control’ procedures for a major incident. SECAmb also supported the exercise with their Hazardous Area Rescue Team (HART).  

The other incident; a large fire involving a high-rise, was staged as a table-top exercise to test the response and decision making process for how KFRS would tackle a fire at any one of the county’s accommodation tower blocks.  

KFRS Area Manager Chris Else said: “Although it is extremely unlikely that multiple incidents of the nature we have been dealing with today will occur, and despite the fact that we are working hard to prevent these incidents happening, it’s important to highlight that recent events at home and abroad can and do happen. Being well prepared to respond to emergencies when they do occur is at the heart of what we do. Today’s valuable and realistic training enabled everyone involved to test and validate KFRS’ emergency plans, and to know with confidence that the Service can deliver the best possible outcome for those involved in any emergency situation KFRS is called to. We all have a part to play in delivering an emergency response to save lives and help our communities." 

The two different scenarios provided an excellent opportunity for KFRS and its partners to review and improve plans.  

Chris ended: "As firefighting equipment evolves and improves, we must test and enhance our firefighting techniques so we can respond effectively to meet the needs of the county. We must ensure that our teams’ knowledge and experience meets a high standard and the enhanced capability. As part of our learning everyone involved also gets the chance to contribute in our review, to improve our plans so we can ensure all lessons learnt help advance our responses and procedures in the future."  

While KFRS carried out the annual training event, emergency fire and rescue response capabilities were maintained at normal levels throughout the day.