Emergency Exercise Off Southampton

A major multi-agency exercise has been held at Marchwood Military Port.

Operation Spartan took place on Saturday 10 September, and was the culmination of months of planning between the participating 999 responders, military and civilian agencies.

The exercise had three objectives; to test the Port Incident Plan, test the response of local emergency services to a complex, major incident and to test the ability of the various agencies to work together to reach a safe and successful conclusion of the exercise situation.

 It simulated a fire on a cargo ship

Police Constable Mike Batten who is a Hazmat Advisor organised the exercise said:

"The scenario for the exercise involved the MV Hurst Point, a 23,000 tonne military roll-on roll-off cargo vessel, which for reasons unknown had collided with the jetty on the final approach to the Military Port. As a result, the ship was holed at the waterline and the scenario involved fuel leaking into Southampton Water. The impact with the jetty also caused cargo on the deck to shift and as a result the exercise involved two crew members falling into a compartment and becoming trapped by falling debris. In order to maximise the training opportunities I arranged for two nurses who kindly volunteered to participate in the exercise to be 'live' casualties to make the situation as real as possible. To add to the drama, we arranged for a shipping container on the deck to become 'ruptured' and smoke generators were placed inside to simulate the burning phosphorous."

It was a multi-agency exercise

He continued:

"The initial responders to the 'incident' were the Defence Fire Service and the MOD Police. Once they had made contact with the ships crew, further assistance was requested from Hampshire Fire and Rescue, Hampshire Constabulary, Police Hazmat Advisors, South Central Ambulance Service Hazardous Area Response Team and the Environment Agency."

Fire crews located the 'casualties' which were only accessible by hatchways and ladders. The firefighters the proceeded to cut away debris to access them and then work with the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) from South Central Ambulance Service to effect treatment and rescue. Both casualties had simulated spinal and limb injuries and they carefully taken to safety by personnel using a combination of specialist boards and rope rescue procedures.

It involved Fire crews, police and the military

Sid Murphy, HART Team Leader advised:

 "The additional skills and equipment that the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) posses allows us to deliver life saving medical interventions within the inner cordon or areas that are difficult to access. It also allows us to work closely with our fire service and police colleagues and also provides them with medical cover. Taking part in an exercise such as this is a valuable experience and an ideal opportunity to hone our skills and test our interoperability with other blue light services and the military."

Whilst the casualties were being assisted, a combination of Hampshire Fire and Rescue firefighters and the crew from the Defence Fire Service made progress to cool the container which contained the phosphorus using water jets, deal with the associated water run off on the deck of the ship, and establish Command and Control to ensure smooth working with the other agencies.

The Police Hazmat Advisors linked up with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service hazmat officers and the other responders to provide information to facilitate the appropriate police response whilst the Environment Agency deployed specialist inflatable equipment around the ship to contain the 'fuel leak.' Paul Reynolds, Senior Environment Officer from the Environment Agency said:

"It is vital to react as soon as possible to pollution incidents in order to minimise damage to water supplies and the environment, so exercises like this ensure we are as prepared as we can be. We deployed over 300 metres of booms that would limit the spread of contaminants. It's really useful to train with our partners as it maximises our ability to work cohesively and efficiently in real incidents."

Warrant Officer Dave Rush said:

"The facilities at the Sea Mounting Centre has made it possible for all the emergency services to exercise their skills in a controlled environment with minimum disruption to external agencies. It also allows the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC to practice their waterborne response to an emergency alongside the other professionals."

Station Manager Ben Smith, Station Manager for the New Forest area from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service added:

 "The exercise was concluded after two and a half hours with all parties satisfied that the 'incident' had been successfully dealt with.

All those attending agreed that the exercise had been a success, with lessons learned and areas identified for further development. As always, thanks must go to all those who gave up their time to take part in the exercise and the staff at the Marchwood Military Port for making both the Port area and the ship available."

An oil spill was also simulated on the day