Historic Battle Abbey has been struck by a major fire with people trapped inside. Luckily, this was not a real life incident but a mocked-up scenario for the purposes of training for East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.
Throughout the year the Service carries out large-scale exercises to prepare for such incidents. Five fire engines, the Aerial Ladder Platform and an Incident Command Unit pulled up outside the abbey first thing Tuesday morning (3rd April) for the purposes of the exercise, along with seventy members of staff.
Crews played out the scenario and carried out a full search and rescue operation, whereby they located various casualties throughout the building. This was no routine drill as smoke machines were used, as well as dummies which had been strategically placed around the building. A debrief followed the exercise whereby all those involved discussed actions that were taken.
One of the organisers, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, District Commander for Rother, Tony McCord, said: “The purpose of this exercise is to prepare for an event such as this on a large scale. It ran extremely well with everyone putting in maximum effort. We chose Battle Abbey because it is such a historical building, which is held in very high esteem by the local community. It is important for us to have comprehensive knowledge of the site in case of such an incident. Also, it is a complicated and large building which requires specialist knowledge to tackle a major fire there.”
Rother District Council’s Emergency Planning Officer, Charlie Sharrod, attended and was on hand to offer valuable advice and expertise, along with officers from Sussex Police who all played a crucial role in the training exercise.
The operation sparked much interest from curious onlookers who were visiting the Abbey on the site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings and many took the opportunity to take their own snapshots of the operation.