hospitalWeston General Hospital has teamed up with Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) to test their preparations for a major chemical incident.

Codenamed ‘Medicinal Compound’ the training exercise was one of the largest the hospital has taken part in and is part of normal preparedness that public organisations have to undertake as part of their statutory duty.

Avon Fire & Rescue Service Station Manager Jon Brown said: “This exercise provides a good opportunity to work closely with the other agencies which may be involved in an incident of this nature. The scenario involved a number of people exposed to a chemical which will cause varying degrees of injury, ensuring we practice our protocols and procedures for responding to a major incident involving an unknown substance.

Both AF&RS and the hospital’s Emergency Department worked in decontamination tents on the hospital grounds. They dealt with ‘live casualties’ (volunteers) of the chemical incident with fire engines stationed outside the hospital. Alongside this, an incident control room was set up in the hospital running in real time as events unfold.

Speaking about the training exercise, Karen Croker, Director of Operations for the Trust and the Commanding Director for the training exercise, said: “While nobody wants a major incident, it’s essential that hospital and emergency services are able to plan and prepare for a high level response if the worst was to happen.

"We’re pleased to give Avon Fire & Rescue the facilities in the hospital to run this training and put our own Emergency Department through the extreme pressures of the situation. Despite this being a major operation, the hospital runs as normal and will not be affected."

“We will also be testing the equipment we use to decontaminate large numbers of people and working alongside the Weston General Hospital to ensure that in the event of a real incident of this nature in the local area we are can respond quickly and effectively.”