28 April 2016

A fire at a Northamptonshire football stadium, in which 35 people were trapped inside, was the staged scenario used in a large-scale training exercise by emergency services.

The exercise, which took place on Saturday at Nene Park Stadium in Irthlingborough, involved about 40 firefighters as well as specialist fire units, the HART team from East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), Police Specials and PCSOs.

Emergency serives staff at a training exercise

Cadet casualties

About 50 Police and Fire Cadets also volunteered their time to play live casualties, enabling realistic rescue procedures to be carried out during the two-hour operation.

Details of the exercise were kept under wraps until the last minute, when participants finally discovered they would need to ‘rescue’ multiple casualties trapped inside a smoke-logged football stadium, as part of a simulated set of circumstances aimed at preparing staff and volunteers for potential real life disasters.

Building 'collapses'

The rescue was further complicated by the addition of another imagined event in which part of the building collapses, leaving two firefighters trapped.

Watch Manager David Wilson, who organised the event with Station Manager Ricky Deal, said: “Everyone who took part in the exercise worked very hard and treated the incident as a real event instead of an exercise. Their dedication made the months of planning that went into the event completely worthwhile.

“During the exercise, the Police and Fire cadets had the opportunity to witness some of the conditions one might experience being trapped in a building with no visibility due to heavy smoke. They all remained calm despite being trapped for some time.

“The venue is a large disused football stadium with a very complex layout, which added to the difficulty for incident commanders to conduct a search for casualties while dealing with firefighters in danger.

“There was no visibility within the building and all searching had to be done by using training, touch and sound.

“Police were tasked with assisting casualties, recording the details of people involved and maintaining the outer cordon.”