Disaster training for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service

Shropshire's Neil Griffiths (left) and Kevin Maddox watch technician Colin Walden from Hereford & Worcester using the snake and search cam after cutting through a steel re-inforced concrete pipe at Ennstone Products.|Instructor Matt Reid prepares to use the Hilti DD 130|Instructor Matt Reid prepares to use the Hilti DD 130|A working partnership...Firefighters from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service join colleagues from Hereford & Worcester at the concrete pipe training ground leant by Ennstone Products, of Telford, Shropshire

Shropshire firefighters are preparing to deal with any large scale disaster which may hit the county in a new initiative aimed at keeping Shropshire safe.

A plane crash, collapsed building or terrorist attack - whatever the major incident, fire crews are getting ready to cope with the aftermath.

They have recruited the help of one of Shropshire's major employers which has offered a one acre training site where firefighters can practice their urban search and rescue skills. They will cut through large concrete pipes and massive slabs to practice rescuing victims trapped under rubble in scenarios reconstructed at the site at Ennstone Building Products at Doseley, Telford.

Fire crews plan a series of training sessions at the site over the next few months using acoustic and seismic listening devices, snake eye cameras, special shoring tools and cutting equipment to simulate how they would locate trapped victims. The equipment will be based on the new rescue tender vehicle based at Wellington fire station.

Since the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks, the Government has invested £56 million in the New Dimension project with a further £132 million over the next three years to equip 25 fire services so that they can regionally deal with terrorist attacks, natural disasters or chemical or nuclear incidents anywhere in the UK.

"In Shropshire we aim to have a two hour resilience so that we can deal with any situation and stablilise it while we wait for the arrival of specialist urban search and rescue teams from our nearest brigades at Hereford and Worcester or the West Midlands," said Sub Officer Neil Griffiths, Watch Manager in the training department at Telford fire station.

"We believe we are the first brigade not equipped with the New Dimension equipment to take this pro-active step to ensure that we are ready to deal with any major incident. If there is a building collapse or a terrorist incident we must have the capability to deal with it while we wait for help from our neighbouring fire services.

"The help from Ennstone Building Products is tremendous. The use of their land means that we can give our crews realistic training and if we are ever needed then we will be more than competent," he added.

Steve Fox, Station Manager at Hereford & Worcester brigade, which is working with its Shropshire counterparts said they were more than happy to provide the hi-tec New Dimension equipment for use in the training.

"We are very keen to set up this partnership working with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service." he said.

Owen Batham, Managing Director of Ennstone Building Products believes the concrete structures produced at Doseley will provide the perfect test.

He said: "Our reinforced concrete products are used widely for drainage and manhole systems and are extremely tough. They will provide a very realistic scenario for gaining access into concrete structures.

"It's vitally important that our emergency services get the opportunity to train for all manner of scenarios and we're delighted to be able to help out."

21st May, 2007