20 October 2023

Live-action arena exercise tests West Yorkshire’s emergency service response

First Direct Arena in Leeds played host to a major multi-agency exercise last week when West Yorkshire’s emergency services came together to test their joint plans in responding to a major incident.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS), West Yorkshire Police and Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) joined forces with Counter Terrorism Policing North East, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and Humberside Fire and Rescue Service for a live-action exercise, simulating a Marauding Terrorist Attack.

The scenario, set in the city-centre arena, took months of planning and was designed to test the emergency response of all agencies, both individually and working together, to ensure the region is as prepared as possible should an incident ever occur.

Sam Blackburn, National Resilience Support Officer at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We regularly test our plans through exercises such as this to check what’s on paper would work in a real scenario. These are great opportunities for all partners to train together, identify any gaps and ensure our joint plans are as effective as possible in keeping the public safe.”

Owen Hayward, Head of Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) and Special Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Multi-agency live training exercises always provide a safe environment for everyone to practise their skills and simulate partnership working at major incidents. The opportunity for emergency service colleagues to come together in this way provides valuable learning that we can all take away and then refine our processes and approaches to the many challenging scenarios we may be faced with.”

Sam added: “We would like to thank First Direct Arena for providing the venue and working with us to deliver a robust training exercise, and also the hundreds of volunteers who gave up their time to make the exercise as realistic as possible.”

Over 300 students and staff from the Heart of Yorkshire Education Group and Leeds Beckett University took part in the exercise volunteering as concert-goers and casualties to add another level of realism to the scenario. REACT Disaster Response, the veterans-based charity, also supplied trained and experienced volunteers to act as specific casualties to assist the YAS Hazardous Awareness Response Team (HART) and WYFRS to exercise their responses in a realistic fashion.

Hannah Rossmorris, Senior lecturer in Events Management at the UK Centre for Event Management at Leeds Beckett University, said: “This exercise provided an exciting and valuable learning opportunity for our final year students taking the ‘Risk Management for Major Events’ module.  We are immensely grateful to First Direct Arena for inviting us to take part, and to all the stakeholders involved who had obviously worked so hard to make the exercise as realistic as possible. It was an experience our students will never forget, and one I’m sure will benefit them immensely when they graduate and enter the workplace as events professionals.”

This was just one of a number of multi-agency training exercises which routinely take place throughout the region. It was not in response to any specific threat or intelligence regarding First Direct Arena or Leeds itself. While the exercise was underway there was no impact on front-line services, which continued as normal.

All those involved in the exercise will now carry out a full debrief and evaluation of the exercise to ensure any lessons are captured and incorporated into West Yorkshire’s major incident plans.