Training exercise by Barnstaple firefighters sparks 999 calls
A training exercise conducted by firefighters in Barnstaple looked so realistic it prompted members of the public to call 999.
Firefighters dangled a dummy from the old iron railway bridge in the town on Friday as part of a routine training exercise.
Several members of the crew from Barnstaple Fire Station responded to the “incident” which allowed them to put into practice their response skills and use their specialist rescue equipment, including the rigid inflatable boat.
Watch manager Pete Merrilees helped set up the scenario, which involved a “youth” left hanging from the bridge following a rope swinging accident.
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He said: “We do training exercises like this approximately once every week.
“We try to do new and different things because you can become stale. It’s treated like a real incident.
“We went out and set it up in the morning and then sent the crew to it.
“They didn’t know what incident they were responding to and when they got to the boat they couldn’t see where they were going either.
“They had to take all the equipment they thought they might need with them and then launch the boat from our slip at Castle Quay.
“The only information they were given was that they had to deal with a youth who was stuck after a rope swinging accident.”
The youth was in fact a dummy which was suspended from the bridge by rope.
In a real-life situation, the crew would normally rescue the casualty from above, however in this instance they were made to rescue from below so they could make full use of their boat.
The incident looked so real it prompted members of the public to ring 999 and report a possible suicide attempt.
However, the fire crew had made the other emergency services aware of their training exercise and the police and ambulance crews knew not to respond to the 999 call.
Paul Slaven, spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said training exercises like this one are an "effective way of testing procedures".
He said: "The Service carries out training exercises on a regular basis to cover a variety of emergency scenarios that could be faced by crews in a real-life situation.
"They are often carried out with other emergency services and partner agencies to ensure that we work together as effectively as possible should a similar incident occur.
"Exercises are an effective way of testing our procedures and making improvements to our pre-planned response when necessary."