Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue lead way after “earthquakes” hit UK

FIREFIGHTERS from Hertfordshire have been finding out first hand how to cope if the UK was rocked by a gigantic earthquake...

A CARAVAN hangs precariously over a cliff face, while an injured man is carried to safety – after four simultaneous earthquakes devastated the country.

That, at least, was the scenario faced by crews from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, which has just lead the UK’s first ever live European Union civil protection exercise.

The simulation of four earthquakes hitting the country – code named Operation Orion – came about following a bid to the EU from Hertfordshire’s chief fire officer and Orion project director, Roy Wilsher.

It is a joint exercise between fire services in Hertfordshire, Hampshire and Lincolnshire, and includes fire crews from across Europe, the USA and United Arab Emirates.

Mr Wilsher said: “I wanted an exercise that would enhance UK resilience and ensure that we are prepared to deal with the most unthinkable of events, and I believe through Orion we will achieve just that.”

At the same time, emergency services in Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire co-ordinated responses to the “disaster”, while crews in Hampshire and Merseyside rescued survivors from underneath crumpled houses, bridges and motorway tunnels.

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But the exercise has attracted criticism from some areas of the media, which questioned the need for UK firefighters to take part in an expensive training exercise for an event which is unlikely to ever happen in this country.

But Mr Wilsher hit back at the critics, saying: “Having been involved in Orion from the very beginning, I have no doubt that this was money well spent.

“The UK has highly developed and well rehearsed resilience arrangements, which have been enhanced through Orion.

“As a nation, we are fortunate never to have experienced an incident where we have needed overseas assistance, but with more and more disasters happening across the rest of the world, it is possible.

“There would be nothing worse than experiencing such an event and not being prepared.

“Expect the unexpected; that’s what we’ve been working towards. Past events have demonstrated the importance of being prepared and responding quickly and efficiently.

“That’s how more lives can be saved and the impact of such disastrous events minimised.”