A MAJOR disaster hit West Yorkshire at the weekend.
But there was no need for residents to worry – the carnage was not for real.
It was all part of a large-scale training exercise at West Yorkshire Fire Service’s headquarters at Oakroyd Lane, Birkenshaw.
The exercise, named Double Whammy, began at 7am on Saturday and lasted for 32 hours.
It was designed to simulate the aftermath of an explosion at a block of flats.
But no bombs were set off – organisers had spent several weeks carefully burying a car under rubble and collapsing part of a building.
Firefighters, paramedics and search dog handlers taking part in the exercise had no idea what would confront them when they arrived on site.
On arrival, they were told there were casualties – both live volunteers and dummies – trapped inside the car and building.
Around 70 people took part in the exercise, including West Yorkshire Ambulance Service paramedics and firefighters from Tyne and Wear, Lincolnshire and the West Midlands.
In a real situation, there would also have been around 15 fire engine crews on site, making a total of around 200 people.
The rescuers formed 10 urban search and rescue teams to respond to the exercise challenge.
There are 19 USAR teams in the country, hosted by 17 fire and rescue services including West Yorkshire.
USARs were created by the Government’s New Dimension programme after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, to provide a national response to major incidents.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Steve Beckley was overseeing the training exercise.
He said major disasters are rare and exercises like this are costly, but necessary to ensure the emergency services can respond if the worst should happen.
“We know that the threat is there, from terrorism and natural causes.
“Fortunately we don’t get this kind of incident very often, but we need to make sure that we are prepared for it and give the public some reassurance that we can deal with it when it does happen.”
He said the USAR teams had all responded well to the exercise.
“It has been very, very good. The teams didn’t know the scenario before they arrived and the things you would expect them to do they have done.”
The exercise was one of the biggest and most lengthy that has been carried out by West Yorkshire Fire Service.