Major emergency exercise to test volunteers’ disaster response

Telford & Wrekin Council together with Shropshire Council and other key partners are staging a major emergency exercise in the Ironbridge Gorge this Saturday.

Major emergency exercise to test volunteers’ disaster response
Exercise Simul has been two years in the planning and is taking place at the request of Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin County Volunteers Emergency Committee.

The committee’s members wanted to understand how they would link into the command and control structures of the Emergency Services in the event of an emergency across Shropshire.

The exercise will take place between 8am and 5pm and involves a range of voluntary organisations carrying out live rescues in several specific areas of the Ironbridge Gorge using casualties provided by 605 Auxiliary Squadron and Shropshire Fire and Rescue.

Public transport in and around the Gorge will run as normal. However, the Museum of the Gorge car park in Ironbridge and the small car park in Church Road, Jackfield, will both be closed from 8am-5pm. 

There will also be more cars than usual on the Station Road car park on the south side of the Iron Bridge and signage throughout the Gorge to advise residents, businesses and visitors that the exercise is taking place.

Voluntary organisations involved in Saturday’s exercise include Severn Area Rescue Association, Raynet, National Search and Rescue Dog Association, Midland Cave Rescue Organisation, British Red Cross and West Mercia Search and Rescue.

Category One first responders involved include Warwickshire & West Mercia Police, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, West Midlands Ambulance Service and Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Councils.

The day will start with briefings for the voluntary organisations at Telford Central Fire Station at Stafford Park. The respective organisations will then mobilise their equipment to the scene of mock disasters in the Ironbridge Gorge.

Locations in the Ironbridge Gorge that will be used in the exercise include Benthall Edge, Lincoln Hill, the Tar Tunnel and the River Severn itself between Ironbridge Rowing Club and the Half Moon pub.

The exercise will be overseen by a multi agency Group and will test relevant organisational plans and practice communication paths and systems within an operational environment.

Communication with media and the public will principally be done on Twitter using the hashtag #exercisesimul. Simul is Latin for Together.

Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet lead for Land Stability in the Gorge, said: “The scenario that Exercise Simul will use is based around a collapse in the Ironbridge Gorge resulting in a number of missing people and other live casualties requiring assistance.

“This would result in a major incident being declared and it is highly likely that support would be requested from Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin County Volunteers Emergency Committee.

“It is that element of a response to such a catastrophe that the exercise aims to test. It is important that all aspects of an emergency response are tested in a live environment so we have confidence that everyone required knows what their role is should the worst ever happen.”

Councillor Karen Calder for Health at Shropshire Council added: “Emergency planning exercises are vital to ensure we are properly prepared when responding to an emergency incident. 

“Exercise Simul will be one of the biggest live exercises ever held in the region. 

“The event provides an opportunity for all partners across Shropshire and beyond to work together and test out our plans and monitor any improvements necessary to ensure that in the case of an emergency, our local agencies are aware of how to proceed accordingly. This is why this training is essential.”