WEARSIDE was turned into a scene of devastation and carnage in a simulated terrorist attack.
Emergency chiefs organised the staged disaster – Exercise Genesis – to train rescue crews from all over the country to deal with real-life events.
Teams at the Barmston Mere training headquarters dealt with scenarios involving car bombs, suicide bombers and a malicious explosion at a lab.
John Baines, area manager for community safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Unfortunately, the threat of major terrorist attacks has become increasingly likely in recent years, so it is important that the emergency services are prepared for the worst.
“This exercise was not only a great test of our team’s skills, but also demonstrated the effective working of all the emergency services involved.”
More than 150 emergency responders worked round the clock, in 10-hour shifts, for 52 hours from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon to deal with five scenarios.
The simulated attack included a device hidden in a workshop, two car bombs that damaged a laboratory, an accommodation block and a bus, as well as a suicide bomber on a Metro train.
They left 80 casualties to deal with, from the walking wounded to fatalities.
Four specially-trained urban search and rescue (USAR) dogs, including Tyne and Wear’s two-year-old springer spaniel Spencer, were called in to sniff out people trapped in collapsed buildings.
Mr Baines said: “The scale of devastation faced by the USAR teams during this weekend’s operation can also be seen at large-scale incidents or natural disasters, such as those that have occurred in other parts of the world recently.
“That’s why exercises like Genesis are invaluable, as they allow us to deploy our specialist teams and put their skills and knowledge to the test under realistic conditions.
“Working with national and regional emergency response teams ensures we share vital lessons that improve our ability to deal with such situations should they ever arise.”
The exercise was organised and co-ordinated by Tyne and Wear fire brigade and the service’s National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT).
It is the first to take place at Tyne and Wear’s new USAR training rigs.
Trevor Tague, from NRAT, said: “The planning for this exercise began some time ago and a lot of thought and effort has gone into creating the most realistic scenarios possible.
“The result has been a real test for the USAR teams attending from around the country, and everyone involved should be congratulated for their effort and professionalism.”
* Video feature courtesy of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.