Five fire engines, around 25 firefighters and a height vehicle were involved in the simulated fire scenario at Tubs Hill House on the London Road. It saw crews responding to a 999 emergency call from contractors working in the building, which consists of two towers, each of eight floors. The drama unfolded after fire broke out on the sixth floor with several people reported as missing.
Exercise Director, Sevenoaks Watch Manager, Danny Barrett, said: "Fires in high rise buildings present a range of logistical and physical challenges and can be an extremely hazardous environment for firefighters. It's essential that we practice our emergency response in an environment that is as realistic as possible.
“We are really grateful to Prime Place for the use of their building, which is currently in the process of being renovated from offices to residential units and to Buxton Building Contractors Limited for their assistance in allowing us to undertake the exercise. It was an invaluable training experience.”
The lifts and dry rising main had all been stripped out, so the exercise saw fire crews strapped into breathing apparatus weighing 16.6kg and wearing another 9kg of protective clothing, having to climb several flights of stairs to reach the fire and search for casualties. The realism of the exercise was enhanced with the use of simulated smoke and crews had to get water to the fire by hauling hose reels up a number of flights of stairs.
A height vehicle assisted with equipment movement and provided an aerial view of the incident. It was also used to transport one of the casualty’s out of the building. Thermal imaging cameras were used as part of the first line of attack. "They are like a set of eyes that can help us see through black smoke to take us straight to the heart of the fire and help locate casualties" added Danny.
Crews also tested the procedures for command and control, the effectiveness of communications and other firefighting tactics available to them; such as cold cut firefighting equipment, fog spike and positive pressure ventilation fans.
Chairman of the Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority, Nick Chard watched fire crews at work and said: "It's important that as members of the fire authority we get to see what our front line staff are up against. They do a fantastic job of serving the local community; protecting lives and property and making a positive difference every day. Watching them train highlights the challenges they face and what an exceptional job they do in keeping us safe."
For more information on fire safety in a high-rise buildings visit www.kent.fire-uk.org/your_safety/escaping_from_a_high-rise.aspx