Exercise Orion 2010 took place during the first week of September 2010 at locations across England. It was centered on an earthquake scenario designed to simulate an event that has a very low likelihood of occurring in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and therefore is outside all normal...
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Exercise Orion 2010 took place during the first week of September 2010 at locations across England. It was centered on an earthquake scenario designed to simulate an event that has a very low likelihood of occurring in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and therefore is outside all normal planning assumptions. The exercise concept is that this is "training for reality" and not a showcase. The U.K. has a highly developed, well-coordinated and practiced response to resolving incidents. This exercise provided another avenue to share experiences with multiple participants.
Urban search and rescue (USAR) teams from the U.K. were joined by teams from the European Union and a team from the United Arab Emirates during this exercise. The main field exercises were held on two sites outside Portsmouth, England. Fort Widley was home to the primary field exercise activities. This Napoleonic-era facility is regularly used by members of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) USAR group. Multiple scenario locations were created for this exercise. To prepare for this massive event, members of the HFRS/USAR team spent more than four months developing the site by constructing new challenges and updating/modifying existing locations within the complex.
In addition to the Fort Widley site, they used an adjacent facility. This location consisted of a multi-story building currently under demolition. This site challenged rescue specialists working on the ground as well as the logistics components of the teams that were put to the test by having multiple locations to support during the exercise.
The exercise started with a simulated earthquake that triggered the response of more than 20 HFRS units. These companies were met by exercise staff members and role players in a manner that mirrored a Hollywood production. The level of realism created by the HFRS staff immediately challenged the first responders and set the stage for the following days of activity.
The first challenge faced was the "Widley Cliff Apartment," consisting of exterior and interior challenges. The "North Block" rubble pile had numerous casualties, including unhurt but dazed and injured surface casualties, lightly trapped, heavily trapped and deeply hidden victims. The many passageways in the fort provided means to create safe havens and access points for victims to be placed inside the "collapsed structure" and for exercise staff to constantly monitor the operations of the rescue teams and the safety of all exercise participants.
Many of the rescuers' skills were challenged by the exercise development team. Rope access was needed to climb down to damaged roof structures, followed by vertical rope access down to internal apartments. The pancake collapse required breaching and breaking skills along with shoring and monitoring to create safe havens for rescue operations.
The next area that rescuers came upon was known as "Widley Gorge Bridge East" and "West." The collapsed bridge offered numerous challenges. A van pulling a camper was overturned with the camper hanging over the edge of the embankment (all designed with hidden safety cables to ensure safety during the exercise). Cars were scattered about on the bridge surface, all with simulated victims.
Below the bridge a section of engineered concrete slabs represented the collapsed road surface. This component covered four trapped vehicles and tons of rubble, all designed with access for victims and exercise staff via passageways from the interior of the fort. The rescue teams' objectives included breaching the road surface, tunneling to the victims and assessing the victims' condition prior to packaging them for removal.
All props were designed to be reset by exercise staff, allowing scenario locations for all participants. This capability provided all participants with realistic challenges during the four days of activity, during which time there was a 48-hour period of continuous operations.