Fire crews test 'smoke hoods' during major training drill at empty high-rise in Portsmouth

LIFE-SAVING smoke hoods were used for the first time by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) as part of a major training exercise in Southsea.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 11:34 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 11:35 pm
Firefighters working their way through a building while the officer in the centre carries one of the new, fluorescent smoke hoods designed to help evacuate people from blazing buildings. Photo: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.

The hoods are being rolled out across the service and are designed to be worn by the public as a last resort to help them escape burning buildings.

Each one provides a user with 15 minutes of breathable air, giving firefighters an extra resource when taking people through a smoke-filled area.

More than 55 firefighters took part in the exercise on Saturday – designed to test the fire service’s ability to respond to a blazes in a high-rise building, manage large-scale simultaneous incidents on both sides of the Solent and handle multiple 999 calls.

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Fire crews pictured in Melbourne Place, Southsea, during the training exercise on Saturday. Photo: Tom Cotterill

At the disused Leamington House, in Southsea, simulated smoke could be seen coming from a 12th floor window, prompting the arrival of crews from Southsea, Cosham, Havant, Hamble, Liphook, Sutton Scotney, Basingstoke, Botley, headquarters, Hightown and Portchester.

When smoke was spotted coming from a higher floor, indicating that the fire had spread, firefighters began evacuating volunteers and the fire control room team began fielding multiple emergency calls.

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A similar test was staged on the Isle of Wight.

At the disused Leamington House, in Portsmouth, simulated smoke could be seen coming from a 12th floor window. Photo: Tom Cotterill

The drill was supported by Hampshire police and South Central Ambulance Service, as well as Portsmouth City Council.

Dave Turner, assistant director of policy and planning at the fire service, said: ‘Training exercises like these are vital for firefighters, officers and our control room crews because they allow us to test our procedures in realistic and challenging environments, ahead of any real-life emergency.

‘In Portsmouth, firefighters faced a changeable scenario that involved going from a stay-put evacuation plan to a full evacuation. They used smoke hoods and tested out other new ways of working when dealing with a fire in a high-rise building.

‘The overall exercise was designed to test our ability to communicate effectively between the fire ground and the Control room, how we work with partnership agencies, the way we identify signs of a building not behaving as expected and how we record details around evacuations.

At the disused Leamington House, in Portsmouth, simulated smoke could be seen coming from a 12th floor window. Photo: Tom Cotterill

‘As with all exercises, we will now evaluate how it went and identify what lessons can be learned for the future.’

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Fire crews pictured in Melbourne Place, Southsea, during the training exercise on Saturday. Photo: Tom Cotterill