Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) led a national multi-agency training exercise over five days in June, to test emergency responses centred on MTFA (Marauding Terrorist and Firearms Attack) and urban search and rescue (USAR) operations.
Exercise Black Kite was hosted across both TWFRS’ training centre in Barmston and an offsite strategic holding area. The scenario involved an attack on an aircraft, which then crashed into a building, leading to its collapse and mass casualties.
The design and planning of the exercise took over 12 months and involved a range of category 1 and 2 responders from the military, public and private sectors. To bring the exercise together and make it as real as possible, TWFRS brought in the fuselage of an aircraft and buried it beneath tons of rubble. Other parts of the training centre were converted into collapsed buildings to allow the USAR teams to be tested in incredibly difficult circumstances.
The rescue and recovery phases tested mass casualty and mass fatality planning, including Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) protocols with Northumbria Police DVI teams being supported by other forces including Durham, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Police Scotland.
USAR Operations were supported by the military and the RAF, who used a Chinook helicopter to move personnel. A Combined Tactical Air Cell (CTAC) supported air operations throughout the exercise.
Black Kite also provided an ideal opportunity to embed emergency service drones into CTAC operations as both Tyne and Wear and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service utilised drones while air ambulance and RAF aircraft were operating.
The ResilienceDirect portal was deployed to support operations and provide information, with live updates going through local command levels to a notional Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR).
“It’s essential we regularly test our personnel and equipment within challenging situations. These exercises are fantastic opportunities to bring together blue light services and other key partners to explore how well our protocols work and how we operate together to save and protect lives,” said Assistant Chief Officer Alan Robson, TWFRS.
For the exercise, the USAR team from TWFRS – one of 20 in the country – was joined by fellow USAR teams from Merseyside, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, West Yorkshire and West Sussex. Over 400 personnel plus volunteers were involved over the five days, including trained amputee actors who added to the realism to the exercise.