The practical element of Exercise Orion has started at Fort Widley in Hampshire and will run until Friday. The exercise is being led by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service with the practical side being facilitated by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service at its Fort Widley compound on Portsdown Hill, outside Portsmouth. Funded by the European Union, it is a multi-agency disaster exercise to test resilience and European partnership working.

The simulated earthquake scenario has been selected to test parts of the UK's national resilience and how international help might be incorporated in a catastrophic emergency.

Exercise Orion will test the UK's response to this large-scale disaster to the limit, eventually exhausting some specialist aspects of UK capacity. At this point the Cabinet Office will activate an assistance request from other countries through the EU civil protection mechanism.

Countries that are sending teams to assist the UK for this exercise include: Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. A further search and rescue team from the United Arab Emirates will also be participating.


Exercise Orion Aims:

  • Test the activation and understanding of the European Union Community Mechanism to provide mutual aid to the affected Member State (MS) from the EU
  • Test the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection and coordination of assistance through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC - based in Brussels)
  • Test the deployment, command and effectiveness of the EU Module system
  • Test the deployment and operation of EU assessment and coordination teams
  • Test the coordination of incoming EU assistance
  • Test existing EU communication and information systems.

Exercise Orion will also, for the first time, test England's ability to receive, command and work alongside emergency response teams from other EU member states:

  • By verifying operational and strategic procedures of all nation teams involved
  • By providing an opportunity to establish an operational and common understanding of EU civil protection cooperation
  • By providing learning opportunities for all civil protection teams involved
  • By providing an opportunity to test a major deployment of assets
  • By enhancing operational cooperation between involved parties.


FIRE will feature Exercise Orion updates, interviews and exclusive video footage throughout the week.