Exercise 'Barbel'

Exercise 'Barbel' 7th November 2011, Leziate Lake View

Norfolk Fire and Rescue USAR hosted the ambulance Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), Norfolk Police Search Advisor (POLSA), Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NORLSAR) and King’s Lynn Fire Crews in a large scale water rescue exercise which was conducted during the hours of darkness and cold temperatures.

The exercise was organised by technician Scott Field from Red Watch USAR, it involved a submerged car which had crashed into 15 Kayakers. There were multiple casualties in the water and two missing children somewhere around the lake. Volunteers from Leziate Lakeview, Kings Lynn Sub Aqua Club, Whitlingham outdoor education centre and Norfolk ETC were the waterborne casualties; Harry and Tom Field (Scott’s Children with Mum Looking after them) also took part in the exercise.

Exercise Aims

  • To test the County of Norfolk’s response to a large scale incident involving multiple casualties involving in water.• To test the interoperability of all agencies involved.

Learning Outcomes

  • To test multi agency working at  bronze command level.• To demonstrate best practice in regard to casualty management in water and darkness.
  • To demonstrate an efficient and effective search of the incident site in cold and darkness.
  • To allow all water rescue agencies to conduct operations in a realistic scenario and adverse environmental conditions.
  • To demonstrate effective means to conduct a search of a submerged object.

The Police were first on scene whereby they were approached by the owner of the kayak club with a complete list of the number of casualties (15) in the water; he also told them that the kayakers had been struck by a car. Next in attendance were the crews from King’s Lynn, they were faced with many casualties in distress, with injuries ranging from broken arms, hypothermia, shock and spinal trauma. They started to perform rescues of the casualties nearest to the bank, utilising throw bags and reach poles.USAR arrived on scene next and immediately launched the rescue sled, Pioneer and Avon boats and started to rescue casualties. HART and NORLSAR then arrived and started to set up for joint operations. Crews rescued all the casualties from the water and conducted a search of the car using underwater camera equipment.

The driver was pronounced as deceased and left in situ for further investigation by the police.  After a brief from the Police search advisor, NORLSAR conducted a search of the lake with Hooky, the USAR search dog and his handler Steve Polley, they found the missing children who were suffering from hypothermia and were put into foil bags to heat them up. The exercise was concluded at 20:30hrs.

In total, including responders, observers and volunteers there were over 90 personnel at the exercise. The whole incident site covered approximately 480,000 square meters.

All of the aims and objectives were fully tested by the exercise and all learning points will be fed into future operations and exercises.  

Group Manager Peter Holliday (water rescue project manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service) said “This challenging water rescue exercise tested all responding agencies and gave a realistic scenario for the different organisations to test their own procedures and to test the inter agency coordination and cooperation that is needed at such an incident.  All agencies were fully involved and the joint working in arduous conditions was exceptional, leading to all of the objectives being achieved in a relatively short time period.  Exercises like this one are necessary to test equipment, training, policies and procedures to ensure that if the worst happens we are all prepared both within our own organisations and as a partnership, joining forces to reach a satisfactory conclusion to any disaster.  Congratulations go to the organising team for putting on such a good, testing and safe exercise.”