Twelve members of the RNLI Flood Rescue Team, supported by Goodyear, have now returned home after taking part in the European Union’s biggest ever emergency exercise.
The exercise, which cost more than £1.5 million and was funded by the EU, involved teams from the UK, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Estonia and The Netherlands.
Its aim was to simulate the effects of a tidal surge that devastated the UK and Holland in 1953 resulting in over 2,000 fatalities.
The UK came close to a repeat of that disaster in November 2007, when sea defences on parts of the East Coast came within centimetres of being overtopped.
The exercise, called FloodEx, was launched on Monday 21 September 2009 at the Fire Service College in Gloucestershire.
Attendees included the Rt. Hon Jacqui Smith MP, emergency planners and members of Parliament, alongside national government officers from a range of departments.
The exercise began at 4:30 on Tuesday morning (22 September) with four convoys departing from the Fire Service College, travelling through the Channel Tunnel, into France, Belgium and then onto the Netherlands with a Dutch police escort. The first convoy arrived at the FloodEx base camp around 6:30pm and the last later that evening.
Every morning, crews were briefed about that day’s rescue scenario, which included tasks like moving heavy pumping equipment into remote locations and setting up pumping stations; rescues from contaminated water; mass decontamination of flood victims, and communications with EU colleagues. Much of the action was captured by international film crews and reporters including the BBC.
RNLI team member Jason Webber, from the charity’s Bridlington Lifeboat Station, said: ‘It was an excellent exercise. Working with other agencies is very useful. It’s also very close to how we had to operate during the floods in Gloucester in 2007, when we had to work alongside the Fire Service.’
The RNLI Flood Rescue Team, which is supported by Goodyear, were the only team of volunteers from a charity invited to attend the event. The RNLI supplied two of the seven swift-water rescue trained crews and boats taking part in the exercise.
Hereford and Worcester Chief Fire Officer Paul Hayden, who led the UK’s response to the exercise, said: ‘I have received a number of very positive comments about the professionalism of the UK contingent throughout this exercise, which gave UK teams a chance to practice their skills under realistic and challenging conditions, working alongside colleagues from a range of fire and rescue services and voluntary organisations.’
CFO Paul Hayden continued: ‘This has been a fantastic opportunity to test the improved flood response training and coordination arrangements we have developed in the fire and rescue service since 2007. The EU spent in excess of £1.5m on this exercise to make it both realistic and challenging for all concerned. Not only would this scale of exercise been difficult to organise at a local level, but our success in attracting EU funding has enabled us to do so without cost to local council tax payers. Overall our involvement working alongside our EU colleagues was a major success.’
Notes to editors:
Footage (broadcast quality) has been filed with PA. Direct link: http://video.pa.press.net/London/cat_browseQ.asp?catid=139
Official FloodEx website: http://www.floodex.eu/
About the RNLI Flood Rescue Team:
Formed in 2000, the RNLI charity’s Flood Rescue Team (FRT) is available at 24 hours notice to deploy anywhere in the world where waterborne search and rescue is needed due to natural disaster.
The RNLI FRT is also a declared facility to the UK Government via the Department for International Development (DfID). RNLI FRT members are all either serving volunteer lifeboat crew members or operational RNLI staff who volunteer to be a part of the team.
The RNLI FRT depends on donations from the public and from organisations such as Goodyear to fund specialist training and equipment.
The RNLI also has representation on the Flood Response National Enhancement Programme (FRNEP), which is being lead by Defra in England and is responsible for delivering a new flood rescue capability. Floodex provides an opportunity to test the new arrangements being put in place for major flood responses across the UK.
Goodyear is helping to fund specialist training and equipment for the RNLI Flood Rescue Team.
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