Team in exercise with British Red Cross volunteers and their Fire Emergency Support Services vehicle and team (FESS)

This evening in a test of the Memorandum of Understanding we have with the British Red Cross, and in particular the call out and use of their FESS vehicle, we mounted an exercise this evening to see how the envisaged use of the BRC FESS vehicle would work out in ’reality.’

In addition, other British Red Cross volunteers wished to get a better understanding of the typical type of search and rescue work we regularly undertake, albeit tonight in an exercise scenario.

Readers may recall that the BRC FESS vehicle has previously visited the team to explain its role in supporting GMFRS, where it provides immediate on hand help to those victims of fires, who may be made temporarily homeless or are otherwise without shelter and immediate care.

The FESS vehicle provides in simple terms a ’ready roof,’ but also clothing supplies (For those who may have had to flee a house fire immediately) other comforts usually taken for granted, and very importantly trained British Red Cross crew members who can lend a caring and compassionate ear to those effected by fire.

In the case of our envisaged use of such an excellent resource, we would use the FESS vehicle to provide care for relatives and friends who may arrive at the scene of a search or rescue operation, where the calm and comfortable surroundings of the FESS vehicle are much more appropriate ’In the field’ than any facility we or the Police could provide.

As we often face sad outcomes on some searches, then the presence of such a vehicle gives a better environment in which to pass on such sad news to relatives and friends.

Six British Red Cross members met at our Ladybridge Hall base / HQ at the commencement of the exercise, at 19.30hrs, including full time Officer Emma Gedzielewski, to be greeted by Bolton MRT members.

As so often happens the FESS vehicle and crew, also due to arrive, got called out to a house fire in Greater Manchester, and so the exercise commenced without the FESS vehicle on hand.

Organised by our Training Officer Elaine Gilliland, an ’Exercise Call Out’ page informed all present that a young child and her father were missing in the Wards Reservoir area of Belmont, the possible victims of a drowning incident.

Thirty Six team members mobilised to the incident alongside the six BRC members in our five team vehicles including our SAR Boat and crew.

On scene at the Wards Reservoir, Belmont, locally known as the ’Blue Lagoon,’ a search operation both on the water and the waters edge quickly commenced, with five BRC members ’embedded’ within MRT search parties, and Emma observing our Control side, led by our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE and our Training Officer Elaine Gilliland.

As darkness rapidly fell so did the heavy rain! but undaunted all carried on with the search exercise, locating firstly a deflated childs inflatable dinghy, and then the body of the ’child,’ quickly followed by the father, who was found ’alive’ as part of the exercise.

Forensic and possible Crime Scene protocols were being observed, when the parents of team member Naomi Horan, Rita and Martin Horan started to play out their part in the exercise, namely that of the Grandparents of the child involved / parents of the missing father, who had ’turned up’ very worried as to what was happening.

Co-incidentally it was at this same time that the BRC FESS vehicle arrived at the exercise location with three crew members on board, having journeyed from its previous call out, so they went straight into their envisaged role with us, looking after the ’concerned Grandparents.’

Some two and a half hours later after commencing at 19.30hrs the exercise was concluded with the retrieval of the childs body (In reality one of our training manikins) back to the Search RVP along with the stretcher evacuation of the father (In reality team member Mike Marsh) back to the same RVP.

A ’hot debrief’ in the continuing rain, concluded that all round the exercise had been a success with many lessons taken on board with regards to how to work alongside the FESS vehicle, with all then departing for a quick social drink in the Wilton Arms Public House.

The team would like to thank all the British Red Cross personnel who attended tonight for their ready enthusiasm and interest in the work of the Bolton MRT.

Similar exercises to the one held tonight with the BRC and its FESS vehicle and crew are being considered for the future by the Bolton MRT.