Firefighters gained essential rescue training after high-rise building evacuation exercise in Gateshead

Earlier today (Friday) firefighters from five Tyne and Wear Community Fire Stations practised vital evacuation procedures at a high-rise building in Gateshead.

Between 30 and 40 crew members performed essential training procedures at Crowhall Towers, Felling.

Exercise Salva was a partnership exercise between Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and Gateshead Council.

The firefighters and five appliances were deployed from Byker, Farringdon, South Shields, Sunderland Central and Tynemouth Community Fire Stations. The crews liaised closely with staff from Gateshead Council’s building safety team to ensure they received all of the vital information to safely assess and evacuate the building.

These exercises are regularly played out throughout Tyne and Wear, and are a critical part of the Service’s armoury in light of the devastating Grenfell Tower tragedy.

This training is also very timely after last week the Government implemented the Fire Safety Act 2021 introducing new regulations under the Fire Safety Order.

Further information about the new regulations are provided by clicking the following link.

Joe Haustead, Head of Community Safety, Development and Improvement at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“This exercise will hopefully reassure Tyne and Wear residents who live in high-rise accommodation that the Fire Service is training for all eventualities that may occur in Gateshead and the surrounding regions.

“We regularly work in partnership with housing associations, private landlords, fellow blue light organisations, and local authorities like Gateshead Council to ensure that our training and fire safety regulations meet the required national standards.

“As we look to keep residents safe from harm, and let them know that we are continuingly learning, practising and delivering lifesaving procedures across Tyne and Wear.”

The two-hour exercise was played out in real-time from a mock TWFRS Fire Control emergency call through to the firefighters arriving at Crowhall Towers in their fire appliances, and using full breathing apparatus.

The ‘pretend’ evacuation of the sixteen storey high-rise building didn’t involve actual residents, simulated fire or smoke. But the firefighters operated under instruction to evacuate a number of people from certain floors using actual incident conditions, and apply specialist ‘search and rescue’ equipment including smoke curtains and thermal imaging cameras.

Councillor John Adams, Cabinet Member for Housing at Gateshead Council, said:

“We are delighted to be working in Partnership with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service on this training exercise.

“Gateshead’s high-rise buildings were designed and constructed to prevent the spread of fire, however since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and the subsequent Hackitt report recommendations, a lot of time and money has gone into improving fire safety. As a result of this, coupled with regular fire safety audits, the buildings are now up to an excellent standard of fire safety.

“This training exercise should reassure our residents that Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have the personnel, equipment, skills, and competencies to tackle any major incident should one arise in any of our high-rise buildings.”