Emergency scenario staged at Taplow

Firefighters and USAR technicians are pictured dealing with "casualties" during the exercise. The jet engine is at the centre of the picture.

19 May 2008

Emergency services descended on Taplow yesterday morning as part of a simulated exercise to test their joint response to a major incident.

Fire crews and USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) teams from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service were among the 75 people dealing with a scenario based on the aftermath of a mid-air collision between a passenger jet and a light aircraft.

It was staged at the former paper mill in Mill Lane, which is being dismantled in readiness for redevelopment.

When they arrived they were faced with a fire, an aviation fuel leak, a collapsed building and a crushed minibus – the result of a jet engine falling from the sky - and seven missing people. The casualties were located with the help of sophisticated cameras and electronic listening devices.

Crews were also briefed to respond as if they were dealing with contamination from fuel, together with radiation and other hazardous materials carried as cargo in the two aircraft, as part of the exercise.

Meanwhile, two separate scenarios based on the crash sites of the two planes were unfolding a few miles away just outside Henley-on-Thames.

In total around 300 people from the emergency services and local authorities in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, together with the Environment Agency, took part in the day’s events, codenamed Exercise Wilbur.

Ian Taylor, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Group Manager Emergency Planning – and one of the organisers – said: "We were very pleased with the way the exercise went, and in particular with how well all the agencies worked so closely together.

“An exercise of this size is invaluable in pinpointing any areas that can be improved, and the feedback from the people on the ground was very positive.”

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s participants came from Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Stokenchurch and Aylesbury Fire Stations, Brigade HQ in Aylesbury and the Control Room in Aylesbury, which was also dealing with real 999 calls during the exercise.