Team attends ‘Exercise Hydrus,’ to test the Bolton Multi Agency Flood Response Plan.

Over the last few months the Civil Contingencies Team within Bolton Council have been working working on the production of a Multi Agency Flood Response Plan for the Bolton Council area, which outlines the roles and responsibilities, activation arrangements and the command and control arrangements of those who would be involved in the response to a flooding emergency.

To ’test’ this plan, a full scale table top exercise was formulated which took place today in Bolton.

Exercise Hydrus commenced today at 09.00hrs in the Lancaster Suite of Bolton Town Hall. Specifically designed to be a Bronze Command / Silver Command table top exercise, participants involved represented all those who would have a role to to play at a tactical or operational level in response to a flooding emergency affecting parts of the Bolton Council area.

The key objectives of today’s exercise were ;

  • To explore links between different agencies during a flooding incident.
  • Test the local command and control arrangements that would be implemented during a flooding incident.
  • Improve awareness of other agencies capabilities in response to flooding.
  • To identify any areas in which the plan may be improved.
  • Test the Bolton Council’s corporate business continuity arrangements.

We were invited to send two representatives to today’s Exercise Hydrus,

  • Geoff Seddon our Deputy Team Leader, with 41 years operational MR experience in the Bolton MRT, is a member of our Kayak / Canoe Search team with considerable white water, sea and still water kayak / canoe experience, plus swift water search and rescue experience.
  • Our other representative was Fred Taylor, a very experienced team call out list member, with a professional background in commercial diving operations, (principally the North Sea) and small boat handling (sea and inland)
    Fred is also the MPSRO, our Regional MR body, Water Search and Rescue Officer, and has swift water search and rescue experience.

So both our representatives were well placed and well versed to take part in todays exercise.

A very large total number of representatives took part from a great many organizations, including

  • Bolton Council’s Civil Contingencies Team,
  • other Bolton Council Departments,
  • Greater Manchester Police,
  • Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service,
  • North West Ambulance Service,
  • Primary Care Trust,
  • Royal Bolton Hospital,
  • St John Ambulance,
  • British Red Cross,
  • WRVS,
  • Salvation Army,
  • Met Office,
  • United Utilities
  • and the Environment Agency.

From Wednesday 24th February 2010, all course participants were supplied via email with pre-exercise regular briefings in the form of Met Office severe weather warnings and Environment Agency flood watch warnings, to set the scene for the exercise today.

Today’s Exercise Hydrus commenced with the usual welcome and introductions, followed by a presentation on the Bolton Multi Agency Flood Plan, Bolton’s Flood Risk areas and an Introduction to the exercise. All the exercise participants were formed into groups of mixed organizations and were then tasked with dealing with various developing emergency situations relating to flooding incidents within the Bolton Council area.

Obviously a major part of this exercise and indeed any exercises of this nature was for our two representatives to inform others present of the teams capabilities with regards to responding to incidents of this nature.

In relation to this exercise and indeed incidents of this nature, the teams general capabilities were outlined including,

  • Four Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulances,
  • 12x seater (Emergency vehicle liveried) Minibus,
  • 2x Aireshelta inflatable tents,
  • Purpose built Catering Trailer,
  • Control and Communications Trailer,
  • Self contained communications systems.
  • Specific to this exercise / incident scenario:
    • Six person fully equipped for water search and rescue operations unit was also declared,
    • Inflatable boat (soon to be in service)
  • Team membership: every one of Call Out list members are water bank side trained, and all are equipped with PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices/Life jackets) with the team having numerous water throw lines and safety lines.
  • Every one of our current call out list membership is M.R. Casualty Care Certificate trained, and also AED / BLS trained.
  • Our average 10 x strong Support Group was also declared to the exercise, in general support of the team, particularly in this scenario for catering purposes.

Exercise Hydrus successfully concluded late afternoon, with closing remarks and an initial evaluation of the days proceedings.

Both Geoff Seddon and Fred Taylor found this excellent exercise very beneficial, and a fantastic opportunity to further inform a great many organizations as to our resources and capabilities.

Thanks are expressed to the Civil Contingencies Team (The Wellsprings, Bolton) of Bolton Council for their tremendous work in organizing and facilitating this exercise with particular thanks to Cath Nally, Civil Contingencies Officer for Bolton Council.

An account of the day from Fred Taylor’s perspective appears below:

“The day started at 0900 hrs with tea and coffee and biscuits and signing in. We assembled our flood team of around 70 people from the emergency services, Bolton Council, Environmental Agency and volunteer grounds. We had been given weather reports and flood warnings beforehand then we were split into groups of 12, my group was designated as Bronze, i.e. on the front line. A question paper was given to each group with the current situation and we had to work out our strategy.

On our table we had Police, Fire, Ambulance, Council Officers, Salvation Army, St. John Ambulance, Environmental Officers and me. Other groups were Gold, Silver, Council, Welfare and two Bronze.

Our chairman was from Greater Manchester Police, we was given this role because he had been involved in a real flood situation. He proceeded to organise us and make us into a team, doing a very good job, as the answers came thick and fast and were actually relevant!

The scenario paper stated that basically Bolton was “sinking”, people, hospitals, houses, businesses and council offices were at risk. There were three main areas that were affected: The substations were down, so no electricity; gas could not be used; tap water was contaminated. A waste water treatment plant had been flooded, there was “poo” everywhere!

Lots of people needed rescuing and this was only the first question paper!!

We gave our answers to the rest of the room, as did they. All the answers were very relevant and understood by all.

The second scenario paper arrived with more doom and gloom, another river had burst its banks cutting off a school. Doffcocker Lodge was in danger of breaching or overtopping. More roads were impassable and even more people needed rescuing. An HGV had gone over on the M61, Jct 4 (because of large surface water areas) and was thought to be carrying hazardous substances, involved also was a coach carrying 50 school children as well as a truck full of livestock.

Middlebrook area was now flooded including the Police station. An ambulance was involved in an RTC because of surface water, injuring everybody.

Roads collapsed, flood water everywhere, people were stranded.

Where’s the Paracetamol?

We got down to sorting this out with some debate and got our answers on paper, again all answers were given to the rest of the groups with the same result all good relevant answers.

The last scenario question paper was a relief, the weather had abated, the rivers were not rising. The main reason for the last paper was to highlight the clean up and the after effects of floods. It is not just the actions at the time that are important it is also the aftermath and this could last a very long time.

Overall the day was very good and educating I met lots of people from various agencies, some I had met before some I hadn’t.

A good day was had by all and thanks to Bolton Council for our involvement.”