School exercise to test plans

6 July 2011

Sowerby Bridge High School will be on high alert today (6 July) for a large multi-agency exercise.

Exercise Albert was organised to test the emergency plans and procedures of Sowerby Bridge High, Calderdale Council, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS), West Yorkshire Police (WYP) and Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) when dealing with a complex emergency in a school.

The scenario involves irate parents who will cause havoc in the school, starting a fire, holding staff and pupils hostage and demonstrating on the roof. Firefighters will be sent in to rescue casualties from the smoke-logged building (fake smoke will be used to recreate a fire) and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service?s combined aerial rescue pump will be used to rescue people from the roof. West Yorkshire Polices hostage negotiators will be drafted in to resolve the hostage situation and demonstration as peacefully as possible.

The exercise has been kept secret from school staff and pupils to ensure procedures and emergency plans are tested as thoroughly and realistically as possible.

Head teacher Kate Sanderson said: “Sowerby Bridge High School and Calderdale Council have been working together in developing the school?s own emergency planning procedures and resilience. This exercise will test the schools emergency plan, particularly around its safeguarding measures and the management of a multi-agency response event.

“The school and the local authority welcome the opportunity to work with the blue light services for the benefit of all members of our community. This exercise will require the school to respond to an intruder gaining unauthorised access to school, the building being set on fire, a group of students being taken hostage and a demonstration on the roof”

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services Assistant District Commander, Dominic Furby, said: “Our priority is to make West Yorkshire safer, which is why it is essential that we are prepared for situations such as this. Our fire crews train regularly to keep skills as polished as possible, we test our own procedures and we train as often as possible with partners”

Jane Sykes, Locality Manager for the Calderdale area at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “This exercise will create a realistic environment from which to test our plans and procedures for handling such an incident and, although it will be simulation, it will be as real to life as it gets so will put our staff through their paces.

“Multi-agency exercises like this one also offer us a real opportunity to work together with our emergency service colleagues to reassure us that the things we have practised separately will work when were operating side-by-side”

Chf Insp Martin Lister, from Calderdale Police, said: “The exercise allowed for all agencies involved to experience the challenges which would be faced during a complex emergency.

“It is important to test protocols in this way to ensure all agencies are prepared for major incidents in order to bring them to a conclusion in the most effective way.

“Multi-agency working is essential and helps to ensure we understand each others working practises to ensure co-operation and effective information flow”


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