Emergency Response Training: REACT Disaster Response joins forces for West Midlands train derailment exercise

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Posted by Laura Butlin 19th March 2024 News

Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins

REACT Disaster Response's involvement in the West Midlands Train Derailment Exercise showcased the organisation's commitment to preparedness and collaboration in emergency situations. Organised by West Midlands Police at Sutton Coldfield Train Station on the evening of March 16th, the exercise provided a realistic simulation of a train crash and derailment scenario, offering valuable training opportunities for various emergency response teams.

The event, dubbed Exercise Royal Oak, required the participation of volunteer casualties who were briefed upon arrival at the location. Despite the challenges posed by the unlit railway tunnel and the potential for smoke from a simulated engine fire, volunteers played their part to support the exercise.

Harry Starkey, REACT Regional Leader for the Midlands, expressed his satisfaction with the night's proceedings. "What a fantastic effort from everyone. The energy and enthusiasm from our Responders opened doors for us to network with other organisations. I want to express my thanks for consistently showing up and supporting the charity the way that you do."

During the exercise, Network Rail and partner agencies, including West Midlands Fire Service, West Midlands Ambulance Service, British Transport Police, and West Midlands Railway, worked together seamlessly to execute emergency response plans. The scenario involved rescuing volunteers portraying train crew and passengers trapped in the simulated aftermath of a train collision with a fallen tree, which had brought down overhead wires and caused a power outage.

Approximately 250 individuals participated in the overnight exercise, which simulated real-life challenges such as limited visibility, confined spaces, and the absence of train power. By conducting the training during off-peak hours, the organisers minimised disruption to railway operations while maximising the realism of the scenario for the responders.

Martin Colmey, operations director for Network Rail Central, emphasised the exercise's significance in enhancing emergency preparedness and joint response capabilities. "Safety is at the heart of everything we do and this invaluable training exercise was a great success. We hope we never have to respond to emergencies such as this, but it has not only enhanced our emergency planning but allowed us and partners to test our joint response and be prepared if needed."

Similarly, Paul Kitchen, station commander at West Midlands Fire Service, said: "West Midlands Fire Service are proud of our response to a multitude of incident types, including the transport network. We aim to get to serious incidents that pose a risk to life or property in just five minutes, and often work with several partner organisations at a scene. That’s why exercises such as this are invaluable – they allow our crews to hone their skills in a realistic but safe environment. They also provide us with the opportunity to test a Multi-Agency response - from the initial call into our Fire Control, through to Command Officer. We were grateful for the opportunity to be involved."

REACT Disaster Response's involvement in exercises like these are essential in testing and showcasing the readiness of Responders and their ability to cooperate in crisis situations. By participating in such exercises, our Responders hone their skills, strengthen partnerships, and ultimately enhance their ability to support people and meet urgent needs during real disasters and emergencies.