We regularly take part in training exercises, often with our emergency service colleagues, to test our plans for handling a major incident.
Some of these exercises are carried out as live exercises—where staff attend a set-up scene and deal with ‘real’ patients, played by volunteers
Others take the form of tabletop exercises which test our staff in their strategic management of an incident.
Live exercises include:
- Exercise to test the ability of the emergency services to deal with a major chemical incident
Organised by the Health Protection Agency, the scenario was centred around a large sporting event for disabled athletes. The ‘incident’ involved two minibuses carrying athletes crashing into a lorry full of chemicals. The decontamination team worked closely with the hazardous area response team (HART) to clean the patients of any chemicals. The patients were initially assessed and transported to decontamination tents using a Polaris – a newly acquired vehicle allowing staff to drive into a hazardous scene wearing protective clothing.
- An exercise to test our response to a chemical incident at a water treatment
We worked with other organisations to test what would happen if there was a chlorine spillage at a water treatment plant. During the exercise staff wore gas-tight suits and used the specialist chemical detection equipment they would use in a real incident.
- A combined airport and chemical incident exercise
This live exercise involved a scenario where a plane crashed into a gas works and volunteers acted as real patients. We used this as an opportunity to look at how we would respond if this type incident became a reality. Over the course of the day the plans of all of the emergency services were tested.
- An exercise on London Underground to test the radio system
Teams from each of the emergency services went down to an underground setting to test the radio system. We were able to trial the use of one radio channel to communicate between different emergency services, so that if there was a major incident we would be able to communicate with each other more easily and quickly.
- An evacuation at Royal Brompton Hospital
This exercise tested how we would work with the local hospital to evacuate patients from one of their wards.
- A crash in the Rotherhithe Tunnel
This exercise, arranged by Transport for London, tested the plans of all the emergency services in responding to a crash involving a large number of vehicles. Together we had to carry out a rescue operation in a cramped and noisy environment, where communication was extremely difficult.
- Counter terrorist exercise
Over 40 ambulance staff took part in a counter terrorist exercise to test a multi-agency response to an attack on the Underground. The Metropolitan Police Service and Home Office led exercise – Forward Defensive – took place at the disused Aldwych Underground station, which was representing Oxford Circus station in August during the height of the 2012 Games..
- London 2012 Olympic Games planning exercise
Ambulance staff from across the country joined forces in the first event of its kind to test and demonstrate their response to incidents. We hosted Exercise Amber and held it at the site of the Service’s deployment centre for the 2012 Games, which has also been used for the first time. The scenarios – which were supported by other agencies such as the Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade and the RNLI – included patients on a boat on the River Thames, and others needing treatment at the top of scaffolding and rescuing from under rubble.
Recent tabletop exercises include:
- Major incident exercise to test our ability to respond to a multi-site terrorist attack on London with mass casualties
The scenarios included reports of gunfire at train stations, a hijacked ambulance and boat and suspect abandoned vehicles in locations across London. More than 70 senior staff took part in the tabletop event, working with police, fire and local councils to coordinate the response to the attacks.
- Terrorist attack in a crowded area
Our staff attended an interactive tabletop exercise where they were put through a realistic simulation of a terrorist attack in a crowded urban environment. This exercise looked at how different London agencies would work together in the event of a terrorist attack.
- Serious incident in a prison
During this exercise we worked with the prison service to show how we would respond to a serious incident within a prison. This is part of a series of exercises promoting better working practices between the services.
- Pandemic flu preparations
As part of our preparations for a potential pandemic flu outbreak, our staff attended a training exercise with Westminster Primary Care Trust, and other agencies, to show how we would respond. This exercise was part of an ongoing national strategy to help strengthen communication and working relationships during an outbreak situation.
- Flooding in London
This exercise tested how we, and other agencies, would manage a situation where parts of London were severely flooded.