Nescot students volunteered at the scene of a simulated emergency on Thursday (March 3) as part of Europe’s biggest ever disaster training exercise.
Exercise Unified Response, aimed at preparing specialist emergency crews to deal with a major incident with mass casualties, cost an estimated £770,000 and involved more than 70 organisations.
The drill was held at five locations, with seven real tube carriages and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubble creating the scenario that a building had collapsed onto a busy London underground station.
About 90 students on the Level 2 and 3 Uniformed Public Services travelled to a disused power station near Dartford, where they played roles ranging from casualty to panicking relative.
“It was invaluable for the students to be involved in such a major training exercise,” said Neil Barnett, Head of Sport and Uniformed Public Services at Nescot.
“They saw first-hand how the emergency services, including international crews, work together during a major emergency, and that understanding will really help them on their courses and in their careers.
“The work that the students and all the other volunteers did was absolutely central to the whole operation, because without ‘casualties’, the exercise wouldn’t have been possible.”
The students and their teachers arrived at Littlebrook Power Station at about 8.30am and were given cards detailing their role, and special makeup to simulate their injuries.
The character cards included people with head injuries, broken bones and internal injuries, people experiencing psychological trauma, worried relatives and even bystanders attempting to get compensation.
Ben Graham, a Level 2 student, played a character who had been on the tube at the time of the disaster, and had sustained two broken legs and internal injuries.
The emergency crews worked for hours to reach the carriage, which was buried under rubble, and then had to work out the logistics of getting the injured people out.
Ben, who plans to continue to Level 3 at Nescot next year, said the experience has made him realise he wants to work in urban search and rescue in the future.
“When I saw the operation for real I realised that you need a lot of skills, from logistics to being calm under pressure and working in a team,” he added.
“It was pretty amazing to be part of such a major operation. So many people had worked so hard on putting it all together, and it was so realistic.
“I learnt a lot by seeing how all the different emergency services worked together, such as which agency is responsible for what, and it made me think about my career plans in a new way.”
Exercise Unified Response was coordinated by London Fire Brigade and involved all the capital’s emergency response organisations, as well as local and national government and specialised search teams from the UK, Hungary, Italy and Cyprus.