Astonfields Staffs Fire Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service ran a 3-day exercise to test the emergency response to, and aftermath of, a serious collision this week.

The collision – involving two large coaches, a minibus, a lorry, a bicycle and five cars – was staged at a site near Ringwood Road in West Moors.

Around 70 volunteers, including role-players from the charity Casualties Union, simulated a range of injuries to bring the exercise to life for emergency responders. Nineteen realistic mannequins were also placed to represent people with more severe injuries or who had died at the scene.

The exercise ran as a ‘live play’ scenario, meaning that personnel acted as though the exercise was real, following a series of 999 calls to the emergency services at around 9:20am. The first police officers at the scene quickly identified the scale of the incident, putting in place established plans for a multi-agency major incident response.

The response at the collision site involved colleagues working together from Dorset Police, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, South West Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust, British Red Cross, Dorset County Council, Bournemouth Borough Council and East Dorset District Council. Journalists were also invited to take part, to test how information would be made available to the public.

Actors playing injured people who were fit to walk were taken to a Survivors’ Reception Centre at the West Moors Memorial Hall, set up by the local councils with support from the Rapid Relief and St John Ambulance charities. These provide welfare and practical support to people affected by major incidents, while allowing minor injuries to be treated and for the police to start formally identifying people involved.

Station Manager Richard Coleman from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, who directed the exercise, said: “This provided a useful opportunity to test the multi-agency response to a major collision. Fortunately real incidents of this nature are rare, but that also means we need to make use of exercises to test our plans and make sure our staff are up-to-speed with the latest practice.

“Over the three days, around 700 people were involved, from a wide range of organisations across Dorset. I am also incredibly grateful for all the volunteers – both individuals and from charities – who make this possible. 

“Emergency responders do not know the scenario they will face in advance, which makes their response as real as it can be. While it is incredibly important to carry out these exercises, which is why we involve a lot of staff, I can reassure the public that we plan our resources to retain a normal response to any real incidents that take place.”