London Fire Brigade

Fire Brigade to simulate London plane crash in ‘largest ever exercise’

26 April 2014

The London Fire Brigade is hosting one of the largest and most comprehensive exercises in its history this weekend, with fire crews taking part in a three-day exercise based around a plane crash in the capital.

The exercise aims to test local and national emergency response procedures to a major air crash incident in London. Over 220 emergency service personnel will take part, including specialist Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams from London and across the country, the Metropolitan Police Service, and London Ambulance Service.

It is a unique opportunity for the blue light services to work together effectively to practice the life-saving skills that would be used should a major incident ever occur in the capital.

The exercise will be based on the scenario that a plane has crashed into a building by the river in east London. The exercise will feature a real fuselage from a Boeing 737 plane, which a specialist rescue team from the London Fire Brigade have painstakingly installed in the hanger of a large, derelict Victorian flour mill, known as Millennium Mills.

Using 400 tonnes of rubble, the team has spent the last four weeks creating a ‘crash site,’ and have partially buried the plane’s fuselage under the rubble. This will create a scenario that offers an exceptionally realistic representation of the aftermath of an aircraft crashing into a building.

Real flames and smoke will be used to make the scene look as convincing as possible and to create an extremely challenging training environment for the rescue teams involved. Crash debris and working black box simulators are being placed into the docks for the Met Police Dive team to recover.

As well as the crash site inside the building, the exercise will also play out in the docks outside, with firefighters trained in water rescue searching the water for ‘survivors.’ and  specialist police marine diving teams undertaking evidence recovery over the course of the following two days.

Over 100 volunteers from a university paramedic course and actors from Amputees in Action, an agency which provides amputee actors, will play the part of ‘casualties’ to provide a realistic mass casualty environment for the emergency service personnel taking part.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said:

“Whilst this scenario may appear worrying for some, I would like to reassure the public that these sort of exercises are vital to ensure that rescue teams are fully prepared should something like this ever happen in London.

“It is only through this kind of exercise that we can fully test our plans and ensure that all the agencies which would be involved can respond effectively  together, in a co-ordinated manner.

“Air traffic incidents are extremely rare, but it is my responsibility to ensure that our fire and rescue teams, working with the other emergency services, are ready in the unlikely circumstance that something catastrophic were to occur with a plane in the capital.

Director of Operations at London Ambulance Service, Jason Killens, said:

“Today has been a valuable learning opportunity for our staff.  Working in partnership with our emergency service colleagues, we have been able to test our equipment, systems and procedures for coping with a real life major incident like this.

“Although this type of incident is extremely rare, it is important that we work together and plan now so we can continue to be well prepared for every possibility.”

Commander Peter Terry the head of Emergency Preparedness for the Met, said:
"Major incident exercises like this one provide us with the perfect opportunity to practice and test our response with our partners in a realistic fast moving environment.
“They also allow us to examine what worked well and what difficulties we faced so we can take that learning and use it to improve our response and co-ordination when dealing with real live incidents in the future."
The Brigade said that the exercise has been planned for over a year and is completely unrelated to the tragic incident involving Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which occurred in March.

To allay any potential concerns that may be raised, people living and working close to the site of the exercise have been advised that there will be a large number of emergency service personnel and vehicles present in the area for the duration of the exercise.

Ends

Notes to editors

Media / photographers:

Media places at the exercise are strictly limited and are available on a first come, first serve basis. Unless you have contacted the Brigade’s press office  on 020 8536 5922 by 5pm on Friday 25th April, you will not be granted access to the site due to on-site security.

Agencies taking part include: London Fire Brigade water rescue and USAR teams; Metropolitan Police, London Ambulance Service, Newham Council, Emergency Planning and Air Accident Investigation Branch.

More information about Millennium Mills can be found on Wikipedia.