Community groups put vital disaster planning in place

Those taking part in Excercise Barnes Wallis.
Those taking part in Excercise Barnes Wallis.
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Communities across the county were put through their paces as disaster after disaster struck in the national pilot of a mock-emergency excercise.

Communities in Wyberton, the Suttons and Anderby took part in Excercise Barnes Wallis, a fake disaster designed to test the groups’ responses.

The theoretical excercise revolved around the aftermath of a large explosion.

Groups from Wyberton and the Suttons completed ‘tabletop’ exercises, while the Anderby Voluntary Emergency Response Team (AVERT) took part in a practical challenge to inform their residents what was happening, set up and manage places of safety, evacuate people from their homes and communicate with the emergency services.

All three were supported by Lincolnshire Police, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, the British Red Cross, Lincolnshire County Council and other voluntary and statutory organisations.

County emergency planning staff revealed the full horror of the task as they gave details, at pre-programmed intervals, of the developing scenario.

It began with an explosion of uncertain origin, and developed into a fire, the death of a builder and then the discovery in the footings of the construction site of the bomb.

In an incident such as this, local emergency planning groups can prove vital as they are likely to be first on the scene before the assistance of blue light professionals arrives.

As the groups waited for emergency services to arrive they were faced with moral dilemmas around rescue and recovery that might endanger others and the practicalities of assisting in warning and informing, and then the evacuation of near neighbours including dealing with the distraught wife of the dead builder, assisting with the evacuation of care homes and a school and keeping people away from danger.

David Powell, head of emergency planning for Lincolnshire County Council, said: “With any emergency you might expect that the police or fire and rescue will just take care of it, and most of the time you would be right.

“But if there was another emergency elsewhere in the county, we might need the help of community groups. This is about improving our resilience.

“Community groups can play a really important part by informing other residents what is happening, encouraging them to take action and by offering support.

“The local knowledge they have can also be extremely useful.”

During the tabletop exercises groups were tasked with setting up cordons, evacuation centres and using local knowledge.

Anderby’s excercise lasted 40 minutes, whereas Wyberton and the Suttons took three hours each.

Sue Whitton, senior emergency planning officer, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity for the community groups to test aspects of their plans and to liaise with the emergency services as they would in a real life situation.

“Using feedback from those on the ground, we will now put together an exercise report which will allow us to review the Community Plan and make any necessary amendments.”

Any community group can come together to form a local voluntary emergency response team and develop 
an emergency plan for their area. For more information about making an emergency plan call 01522 582220 or email jems@lincoln.fire-uk.org

The community group dealing with the emergencies in the Suttons was praised for rising to the occasion.

Lincolnshire County Council emergency planning officer Hayley Harrison said: “The exercise at the Suttons went very well.

“The group rose to the challenge and dealt well with the scenario.”