Disaster Exercise Continues Near Portsmouth

Exercise Orion started on Tuesday 7th September 2010 and involves the simulation of a mid sized earthquake striking Hampshire.

Firefighters from across Europe working at Exercise Orion have been dealing with a number of additional and unexpected scenarios including a collapsed shopping centre and unexploded bomb.

Exercise Orion began at 09:40am on Tuesday 7 September and will run until Thursday 9 September and is the simulation of a mid-sized earthquake hitting the UK.

On initial attendance at Fort Widley, outside Portsmouth, crews were faced with a number of scenarios including a collapsed motorway and apartment block.

Today (Wednesday 8 Sept) crews are faced with the additional scenario of a collapsed shopping centre in Fareham and an unexploded bomb in Portsmouth.

As part of Exercise Orion, fire crews have been working across six sectors:

1) A collapsed apartment block – ongoing at Fort Widley with at least three casualties still trapped below the rubble

2) A collapsed office block – this was at the old DSTL site on James Callaghan Drive (scene now shut down)

3) A collapsed motorway bridge – at Fort Widley (scene now been shut down)

4) Collapsed retirement complex – at Fort Widley, (scene now been shut down)

5) Collapsed and severely damaged oil storage depot at Fort Widley, still operational and with at least three casualties trapped in the rubble

6) The collapse of a shopping centre in Fareham – this scenario is being played out at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters in Eastleigh.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Exercise Director, Pete Crook, said: “It was a long and tiring first 24 hours for all involved. The exercise is continuing non stop and is testing us to the limit.

“We have now withdrawn all the UK Urban Search and Rescue teams and the incident is in the hands of the EU teams, this is the true test of co-ordination and mutual aid across borders, this is where our learning begins.”

Exercise Orion is the UK’s first live European Union civil protection exercise. It is being led by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service following a successful funding bid to the European Union and is being hosted by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service due to its excellent training facilities.

Working alongside UK urban search and rescue teams are additional teams from Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates. The exercise ends at 17:00 on 9 September.