Volunteers ‘survive’ train crash in Exercise Georgiana

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Exercise Georgiana got under way in Claypole on Tuesday morning with dozens of volunteers acting as survivors of a derailed train.

A class of pupils from Claypole Primary School joined in the exercise as they were ‘evacuated’ to the village hall which was used as a survivor reception centre. In a ‘separate incident’ their school had collapsed after a tanker had crashed into it.

Year 5 teacher Kate Summerfield said: “They are really excited about it and want to know exactly what is going on.”

‘Survivors’ of the train crash were ferried in vehicles, driven by volunteers of the Lincolnshire 4x4 Response group which helps the emergency services, to the village hall where they were registered and cared for. The Red Cross, amateur radio network Raynet, county council and British Transport Police were also involved in the exercise.

Each ‘survivor’ was given a role to play. German-born Stefanie Hey, who lives in Claypole and is a teacher at the local school, put her name forward as a foreign speaker. It was her role to play a foreigner who could not speak English well and who had lost her brother in the crash.

Stefanie said: “It is quite challenging. They do not really know what to do with somebody who speaks a different language. They have given me a booklet but there is nobody here to translate for me. It is very interesting and I am getting into the role.”

Run by the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum, the full-scale exercise is aimed at testing Lincolnshire’s plans for dealing with a serious crash.

David Pell, of Claypole, who took the day off work to be a volunteer, said: “Everybody is doing a good job but I think we need a site manager at the door who can manage everybody as they come in. It all needs a bit of a spark.”

Volunteer Lindsay Wilson, of Grantham, said: “I am very impressed with how efficiently everything is in place. We walked for 10 minutes from the crash site and then there were people on hand to take care of us. People had to check if we had any injuries and then they went through the process of registration and I am really, really impressed. I think this is a really worthwhile exercise.

“In the first hour it was quite easy to get into character. There are lots of things here to test the services. Everything may be well prepared but until you put it into practice you do not know where it might fall down.”

Christine Richards volunteered for the exercise and took four-month-old son Jonny with her.

She said: “I travel on the train quite regularly and thought there would be a lot of adults here, but not many children. I wanted to see how they coped with a small child around.”

Ray Clarke, of Newark, was celebrating his 66th birthday. His role was to play a man on probation who had been tagged and needed to get in touch with his probation officer. Mr Clarke said: “I think they need to be prepared for any potential accidents. It’s good training.”

Exercise Georgiana also involved two specially-constructed crash sites at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service’s training facility at RAF Waddington on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A command centre to co-ordinate the county’s response was set up at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue headquarters in Lincoln and a ‘temporary mortuary’ was created at the Lincolnshire Showground.

More than 300 people, including staff from Lincolnshire Police, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, East Midlands Ambulance Service, local authorities, the Environment Agency and health agencies, as well as voluntary and private agencies took part, as well as around 100 local volunteers.

Anybody interested in joining Lincolnshire 4x4 Response can get more details from their website at: www.lincolnshire4x4response.org.uk