Emergency services exercise simulates fire during concert

Leeds Arena Exercise

Around 100 members of the public took part in an emergency services training exercise simulating a fire at the First Direct Arena in Leeds city centre yesterday (May 20).

The multi-agency exercise involved West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS), Yorkshire Ambulance Service HART (Hazardous Area Response Team), the Emergency Planning team at Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Police and the Arena’s own staff.

The scenario involved a simulated fire in a kitchen area during a concert (using synthetic smoke).

Operation Learning Manager for WYFRS Gary Kendrew said: “The exercise looked at how effectively the auditorium could be evacuated should such an event happen in reality. The auditorium would usually hold thousands but, with the help of volunteers, we have been able to create a situation as close to real life as possible.

“Around 100 members of the public volunteered to be ‘injured’ concert-goers and we also used numerous training dummies.

“Their ‘injuries’ included burn injuries, crush injuries and sprains from trips and falls. We also looked at any issues around the evacuation of people with a disability or those with limited mobility.

“Ultimately we also wanted to evaluate how efficiently the emergency services worked together in this type of situation.”

Around 50 Firefighters were involved in the scenario from stations across the Leeds district. They were Leeds station, Garforth, Wetherby, Stanningley, Morley, Hunslet, Moortown, Gipton and the Command Unit at Batley. Meanwhile other resources were redirected to cover the Leeds area.

West Yorkshire Police assisted with the evacuation, cordoning off the area and liaising with other emergency services.

A spokesperson for First Direct Arena added: “Safety of our guests is our number one priority at the First Direct Arena. We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with our partners in the emergency services to test our facilities and procedures.” 

Roger Carter, Principal Emergency Planning Officer at Leeds City Council, said: “We are pleased to have supported West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in this important exercise to test emergency procedures at the First Direct Arena.

“Multi-agency exercises are an important way to ensure public safety in the event of a real emergency, and strong partnership working between public agencies makes this possible.”

Mike Shanahan, Head of Special Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, NHS Trust, added: “Our Hazardous Area Response Team, which is specially trained and equipped to deliver clinical care in challenging environments or hazardous or difficult situations, attended the event alongside colleagues from other emergency services.    

“This exercise creates a realistic environment from which to test our plans and procedures for handling such an    incident and, although it will be a simulation, it will be as real to life as it can be and will put our staff through their paces.  

“Multi-agency exercises like this also offer us a real opportunity to work together with our emergency service colleagues to reassure us that the things we have practised separately will work when we’re operating side-by-side and ultimately benefits the public we serve.”

A debrief following the exercise will evaluate how successful it was and what learning points can be taken from it.