PICTURES: World’s biggest disaster simulation exercise is happening in Portsmouth today

HOW do you prepare to face major disasters, including hurricanes, oil leaks and a refugee crisis?

Those on the frontline will find out today, as 3,000 people involved with the emergency services take part in the world’s largest annual international disaster simulation exercise across 18 sites in Hampshire, including Portsmouth.

The annual SIMEX Series exercise, which started in 2012, comprises a mix of live, simulation and command and control events in order to test both national and international emergency response mechanisms.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) have asked people who see firefighters taking part in the exercise not to be alarmed by the number of fire engines about.

HFRS’s specialist technical rescue team section leader, Phil Crook, said: ‘Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is among the best in the country and we are regularly called upon to help in the aftermath of international disasters.

‘Exercises like this are vital in developing and maintaining our skills and getting valuable experience working alongside our partners.

The Simex disaster simultation in Eastney today Picture: Tom Cotterill

The Simex disaster simultation in Eastney today Picture: Tom Cotterill

‘This kind of scenario gives you a level of realism you can’t recreate on the drill yard or classroom – they help us keep people safe.’

Those taking part will respond to a major storm or hurricane that brings heavy winds, rains and storm surge resulting in coastal and inland flooding, environmental pollution, major infrastructure damage and displacement of people.

Southsea, Fareham and Cosham fire stations will be taking part.

SIMEX Series is run by the University of Portsmouth, Hampshire Fire and Rescue, RedR and L2S2 and will take place today until Thursday.

'Wounded' people in the disaster exercise in Eastney this morning Picture: Tom Cotterill

'Wounded' people in the disaster exercise in Eastney this morning Picture: Tom Cotterill

The event is also designed to provide a learning environment for participants to test disaster response plans, policies and procedures. Scenarios will include an oil tanker breaking loose from its mooring and crashing into a refinery causing a major oil spill, the rescue of 100 casualties from Solent water, the rescue of dozens of children from a collapsed school and an influx of refugees fleeing from the storm.

The exercise will including more than 900 role players and 64 local, national and international emergency response organisations including the United Nations (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), the Department for International Development, the Police Casualty Bureau, the British Red Cross and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Rescue workers at Simex''Picture: Tom Cotterill

Rescue workers at Simex''Picture: Tom Cotterill