The county’s fire chief has been put through his paces with a scenario that featured terrorist attacks, derailed trains, multiple fatalities and hundreds of people unaccounted for.
More than 50 people were involved in the immersive assessment of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Dave Curry which lasted half a day and tested his vast experience.
As well as the train explosion the exercise also included attacks at East Cowes and Plymouth where festivals were being staged and thousands looked set to be stranded.
The scenario also featured the evacuation of a high-rise building in the centre of Southampton that was hit by a smoke plume following the incident.
Organisers made sure only limited information was available and there were constant interruptions to put the chief under even more pressure and recreate the stress of an ongoing emergency.
Issues from a cracked road and traffic management to social media rumours were all factors CFO Curry had to deal with.
During the off-site scenario he also had to consider pulling in resources from elsewhere to give full cover to other areas as, in the case of a real attack, firefighters would still be called to a normal number of incidents.
CFO Curry said:
“The details of the scenario were completely unknown to me until my pager went off in the morning and it started to play out.
“It was clear a lot of effort had gone into making the exercise as challenging as possible which is exactly what is needed.
“This not only served as a rigorous test of my skills and decision-making abilities but also helped us make sure HFRS is prepared for anything – something every firefighter thinks about.”
Every incident commander from crew manager to the chief has to be assessed every two years in addition to other exercises and drills.
The chief passed the assessment which may now be rolled out to other fire services.
Academy Station Manager Craig Gregory said:
“The chief fire officer demonstrated his leadership and command skills throughout a challenging incident scenario testing both tactical and strategic thinking.
“He was joined by strategic managers from partner agencies to resolve a significant scenario affecting Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”
The assessment organiser and Academy Trainer Karl Manners said:
“I would like to thank all the internal staff and external agencies who have made this assessment as challenging and realistic as possible.”
The scenario was planned down to the most minute detail with fake radio bulletins on the incident being played as the chief was being taken to the scene and a press scrum afterwards featuring a former member of the national press.
In charge: CFO Dave Curry