News – 2012

Gloucestershire County RAYNET recently undertook a Table Top Exercise with Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service (GFRS), as a result of discussions and a closer working relationship in the last few years – mainly from the floods which hit the county in 2007. Under the aegis of the Local Resilience Forum, good contacts were made with the GFRS management through the auspices of the Chief Fire Officer.

Under a multi agency exercise held on the River Severn under the Watermark label in 2011, RAYNET provided the communications infrastructure overarching all participants, and it became quite apparent early on that we were able to technically achieve what what was needed to co-ordinate a multi-agency operation. The extra provision of APRS in showing mobile traffic locations opened a few eyes, and the group departed the scene with the knowledge that we were now counted as serious members of the LRF.
Though the persistance of our Operations and Planning Officer, Tony Ayres M0TAY, the contacts with GFRS became more established, and now to a point whereby GFRS are currently installing amateur band antennas on their fire tower at a station in the Forest of Dean and are seriously looking at repeating this on some of their major sites county wide.

A meeting was held between RAYNET, operational management of GFRS and their IT section, to see how a mutually beneficial working relationship could result From this meeting GFRS decided that they would like to initiate a process to develop a strategic alliance with RAYNET, but they needed to know our capabilities before moving to this stage.

To evaluate our capabilities, including strengths and weaknesses, they invited us to participate in a ‘Table Top Exercise’. The exercise, involving two teams of Group members, proved extremely worthwhile in being able to demonstrate our technical ability, problem solving under pressure, provision of support in areas where GFRS themselves had not seen such openings, and also to learn of their limitations – for example, in the county, only the full time manned fire stations have generators for extended electrical outages – the retained stations do not. Their handheld radios are only 500mW output – not good in somewhat rugged and heavily forested country.

It also highlighted some constraining factors in our own plans, for example – how many members could be restricted by employer requirements if required on a Call out? How many may have family responsibilities for children, the elderly, or infirm relatives, and could not attend an extended timescale event?

How aware are we of member capabilities, what equipment they carry in their vehicles on a full time basis, or how much would have to be obtained from home. Indeed, what vehicular capabilities do they have – how many can tow equipment if needed? How many are trained up in the operation of our two trailer masts?

Following on from this exercise GFRS have formally approached us to initiate the drafting of the Strategic Alliance and the group has initiated an exercise to develop a more detailed database of capabilities as part of our planning to support GFRS. We intend to put a complete member database of knowledge, vehicles, training acquired, so that whoever of the Group management is handling the first phases of a Call Out, the initial activation of members with suitable equipment and background of setting up a control station can be deployed first, with a second phase then being brought up to standby as required.

It became evident quite quickly that we would need to appoint a person as ‘Event Logistics Officer’ to handle welfare and consumables, and for an extended time event, to start up liaison with Zonal resources, for the resupply of operators.

We look forward to working with GFRS in the future, with plans now being laid for RAYNET operators to take their VHF marine licences to assist in requirements to support waterborne operations of both GFRS and their other Strategic Alliance partner The Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA).

A large scale multi-agency exercise is planned in the region in the next few months, and we look forward to working with our fellow LRF member agencies in providing an additional layer of communications resilience.

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