North East emergency services put to the test responding to staged chemical fire

A simulated image of what a Petrochemical tanker fire can look like Credit: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS)

Emergency services from across our region have been put to the test responding to a 'fire' at a chemical storage plant.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) organised an exercise, where crews were joined by Northumbria Police and members of the North East Ambulance Service to practice how they would respond to a major incident.

The role-play activity happened at a riverside premises in North Shields, where the emergency services were tested over three hours on their initial responses, to news the fire had spread to a nearby storage tank.

It is one of many exercises held across various locations across the North East subject to Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) regulations.

The fictional fire was designed to test the logistics of managing a major incident, and communication between the emergency services. Agencies like North Tyneside Council, the Environment Agency, the UK Health Security Agency and the Port of Tyne were also involved.

During the exercise several fire engines were sent to the site, a fire boat was launched to rescue dummies from the water, and a fire drone was used.

The services were also assessed on their ability to communicate messages to the local community.

TWFRS crews at the site of the simulated chemical plant fire Credit: TWFRS

Richie Rickaby, of TWFRS, said: “This exercise was a real test of how agencies come together to respond to a major incident and there has been a huge amount of learning.

"We have fantastic relationships with those partner agencies who took part in the exercise but it is really important that we continue to test our emergency plans.

“We carry out tests of this nature on a regular basis and we hope that they do reassure the public, and the sites in question, that we have stringent plans in place to keep our communities safe.”

Emergency services have a legal requirement to carry out practises like that held at the fictional chemical plant.

The site use in North Shields for the exercise - a location which hasn't been made known - is just several COMAH sites across Tyne and Wear.

Also involved in the training exercise was Superintendent David Pickett, who acted as Northumbria Police’s tactical commander.

He said: “Testing our collective response to major incidents is vital to make sure we are prepared and ready to respond in the most efficient way possible, if or when the time comes...I hope this offers reassurance to the communities we serve.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service deal with a fire at Campground Waste and Recycling Centre in 2021. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

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