Flooding in Newport – IoW unit responds in joint exercise

Casualties fleeing serious flooding found themselves scattered along the banks of the Medina River close to Newport as the waters receded. There they waited for rescue in a joint MVS and British Red Cross (BRC) exercise organised in January this year.

The aims of the exercise were to give both organisations experience in joint planning and control and to provide training opportunities to practice their respective skills; the BRC in first aid and casualty reception and the MVS in boat handling and communications.

Members of the IoW unit crewed the shallow draft flood response boat (SDFR) accompanied by a RIB.

The SDFR boat was designed and built by South Fabrications, Newport IoW and had been kindly loaned to the IoW Unit for the MVS to trial it for the company in conjunction with the IoW Fire & Rescue Service.

Despite attempts to sink her by eleven large fire officers, the SDFR proved unsinkable and to be a safe and stable platform from which to work. She can operate in just a few inches of water when she would be either towed by hand ropes or paddled by the crew.

On a very cold January morning the first part of the plan was put into action and the MVS Command & Control unit (CCU), the IoW Branch Red Cross First Aid unit plus its Fire & Emergency Support Service team (FESS) arrived at the north end of Newport Harbour. The IoW SDFR boat and a RIB were positioned on the slipway ready for launching when called. 

Casualties arrived on the side of the river opposite to the boat launch site and the MVS communications team received information on their whereabouts. This information was then passed by PMR handheld radios to the boat crews who launched the boats and collected the casualties who were ferried across the river to be landed close to the first aid unit. The casualties had realistic simulated injuries and make-up provided by the BRC such as head injuries and hypothermia, to ensure greatest impact for their trainees.

For the second part of the exercise, a number of persons had been reported missing and a search was mounted by the MVS boat crews under the direction of the CCU and Shore team.

Casualties when recovered were brought back to the first aid unit. At this point the FESS team came into its own and with the facilities aboard their vehicle were able to warm up the casualties who were genuinely cold after an extended period on the river bank.

Later in the morning the IoW unit boats were joined by MVS Arkwright, the launch from Portsmouth unit. Five members of the Portsmouth unit on board, Martyn Sharp DRVO Solent East, Chris Davenport HoU, Glenn Bramble-Stewart, National Communications Manager, David Lesser our new National Web Editor and David Rose Chief Volunteer. All were feeling the cold after their Solent crossing and took full advantage of the hot coffee, soup and other goodies made available from the Classic Boat Museum, conveniently placed adjacent to the CCU.

Suitably refreshed they put themselves forward as casualties and were duly and efficiently processed by the Red Cross team.

Unfortunately, Arkwright and her crew had to leave about 1330hrs whilst there was still enough water to leave Newport for her return trip to Portsmouth. Before they left they had welcome hot soup and drinks to warm them for the trip.

As the exercise concluded all casualties were accounted for and everyone adjourned to the Classic Boat Museum for refreshments and de-brief.

All the participants had enjoyed the exercise and lessons had been learned especially concerning communications. Boats had found it difficult to receive messages on their radios and the CCU staff resorted to contact by mobile phone. The stowage of equipment on the boats also needed to be improved.

The exercise had been organised by David Dobson RSO (Emergency Response) Solent Region, Roger Fallows HoU IoW and John Godwin and Louise Randall from the IoW Branch of the Red Cross.

The Government is encouraging Voluntary Organisations to work together in the event of an emergency. This exercise was the first where two voluntary organisations had teamed up and trained together for such an event on the Island. We hope that it will be the first of many opportunities and we plan to train with other organisations such as Hampshire & IoW Search & Rescue, (HANTSAR) Ryde Inshore Rescue (an independent life boat) and the WRVS in the future.

For further information please contact Lynn Peppitt, RVO Solent rvosolent@mvs.org.uk