Exercise “NewStaffBolt 1”

This morning saw the Bolton Mountain Rescue Team hosting a joint exercise involving our friends and colleagues in teams from the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue England and Wales, and a specialist medical and extrication team.

Organised by very experienced Bolton MRT team member Gyles Denn, and with catering assistance provided by the fantastic members of our Support Group, todays large scale exercise commenced with all participants meeting at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ for 09.30hrs this wonderfully sunny and already very warm Sunday morning.

A welcoming endless supply of tea or coffee was immediately followed by all gathering in our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ for a formal exercise introduction and briefing.

This commenced with our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE requesting all present to stand and pay a respectful and thoughtful one minute silence to honour the life of GMFRS Firefighter Stephen Hunt, who we had just learnt had sadly and tragically lost his life earlier this very same morning whilst involved in a very serious fire in Manchester City centre.

The briefing then followed given by Garry, explaining the exercise aims that all elements of search and rescue incidents will be practised, including command and control, radio communications, casualty care, incident scene safety, evacuation, incident logistics and navigation, not forgetting the importance of catering provision.

Procedures in the event of a ‘real time’ operational call out were then covered as well as immediate logistics issues at getting all to the exercise RVP as soon as possible, thereby allowing the days proceedings to commence.

Joining us was Staffordshire Search and Rescue, North East Wales Search and Rescue Team and AirRescue 24 (Including one of their Doctors and four Firefighters from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service)

Very special VIP Guests for the day were Scouts James Jago and Ewan McGann both from 25th Warrington East, St Wilfrids, Grappenhall Scout Group, who had both raised along with their fellow Scouts funds for the Bolton MRT, and as the two Scouts who had raised the ‘most’ their reward was to spend today with us.

James, aged 11, attended with his mum Caroline Smith, whilst Ewan, aged 13 years, attended with his 16 years old sister Ellie McGann and his mum Becky Ingram.

Everybody then departed in a convoy of our six team vehicles (Towing our SAR Boat and Catering Trailer), Staffordshire’s ten seater Incident Support Vehicle and NEWSARs attending Land Rover. (Formerly in service with Bolton MRT and now wearing Welsh emergency vehicle titling, with NEWSAR)

All travelled to the exercise RVP at Charters Moss in the North Turton area, near the moorland high point of the main Darwen to Bolton moorland main road.

Here all attending were formed into three ‘teams’ comprised of a mix of members from all taking part, and were each presented with three incident scenario’s to work through the day, all co-ordinated from our brand new Incident Control Vehicle, by very long serving and highly experienced Bolton MRT member Mike Marsh.

Exercise Organiser Gyles Denn ensured all knew what to do and where to go, and by circa 10.45hrs the exercise commenced.

Valued team friend, photographer Carl Silver was attending to record the days events as they took place (As he so kindly does on our Annual Joint Foundation course every October)

The three scenarios, included a straight forward mini search and evacuation exercise in the Rabbit Warren area of Turton Moor, in the vicinity of the now long disappeared Turton Moor Colliery.

Here a family walking group had got into difficulties, with a young member of the group injuring himself.

Exercise Casualties here, under (first) Bolton MRT member Gillian Leigh’s watchful eye, and then Bolton MRT member Ana Toole’s equally watchful eye, consisted of Finley and Jacob Hughes, aged 9 and 11, with their mum and dad, Michelle and Martin Hughes.

The second site was at Yarnsdale Delf Quarry, Cadshaw, where given the tragic events of the previous Sunday, when a young man died in a fall from height here (See Incident 79 – 2013) all attending were requested to be very respectful of the location, as indeed they all were, with a great many passing thoughtful sincere comments and their condolences about the tragedy that happened here.

Here the scenario involved a person injured and requiring evacuation from the old stone mine entrance, immediately at the base of the steep quarry.

The exercise casualty here was Bolton MRT team member Louise Jorgensen, who suffered the indignities of splinting, and much pushing, shoving and squeezing throughout the day as each group sought to extricate her from the very narrow and awkwardly twisting boulder choke vertical entrance.

The last of the three sites was in the very rocky steep sided and densely wooded gorge of Cadshaw Brook, where another family party had ‘come to grief’ as part of the exercise scenario.

Here Exercise Organisers wife Ali Denn looked after all present, namely Lizzie Brindle – Wilkinson aged 9, her sisters Phoebe and Rosie Brindle – Wilkinson aged 14 and 15, their mum Kate Brindle – Wilkinson and their Dad Phil Wilkinson. (A youthful 27 years old mum!! -well that’s what we were told, and dad aged 44)

At swop over times between each site, all three groups returned to and then set off again from the main exercise RVP, where our Support Group members Iain Clarkson, Amanda Strickleton, Laura Tunnicliffe and Julie Thompson had put on a spread fit for Kings and Queens (Well healthy thirsty and hungry SAR members) all provided from our Catering Trailer. (On the menu was bacon and sausage barmcakes, a variety of sandwiches and fillings, fizzy and still cold drinks, tea, coffee, fresh fruit and chocolate bars – if nothing else we know how to cater!)

As the day got hotter, and SAR members taking part got sweatier! all groups worked around the three scenario’s under the overall control of ‘timekeeper’ and exercise controller Mike Marsh.

James Jago got a special treat as a wheelchair user – an attempt to push him in his wheelchair to the exercise site at Rabbit Warren on Turton Moor proved too difficult, and so he got an easy ride up on one of our mountain rescue stretchers much to his enjoyment.

By 17.15hrs the exercise had concluded, and with a goodbye ‘end briefing’ it was time for all to safely depart, what by every person present had been a great joint exercise, with tremendous thanks to all the ‘exercise casualties’ who had made the day so ‘realistic.’

Thanks were also expressed to our fantastic Support Group member ‘Catering Team.’

With members leaving for home from the RVP at 17.51hrs our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE was contacted by NWAS (Lancashire) Broughton EOC Air Desk despatcher to possible respond to an incident at the moorland fringe hill of Healey Nab, Chorley.

This call was passed to Bowland Pennine MRT as it was their operational area (See their website for details of this incident)

The following resources were involved in todays very successful exercise;

  • Bolton Mountain Rescue Team; 26x Call Out list members, 4x Support Group members, All four of our specialist Mountain Rescue Land Rover Ambulances, our Ford Transit Minibus / Crewbus Ambulance, our Incident Control Vehicle, Catering Trailer and SAR Boat.
  • North East Wales Search and Rescue Team; 5x Team members and one Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulance.
  • Staffordshire Search and Rescue Team; 10x Team members and their Incident Support Vehicle.
  • Air Rescue 24; Paul West (Observer) Doctor Vashek Vanek, and four Firefighters from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. (Including one Watch Manager)
  • Exercise Casualties; All as described in the main text.

Thanks are expressed to United Utilities Ranger staff for their help and assistance with permission to hold this exercise in the locations utilised.
All left with a pledge to join together again soon for Exercise ‘NewStaffBolt 2!‘