Exercise Pat held at Royal Mail building

26 February 2009

Firefighters get ready to enter the Royal Mail delivery office to rescue missing workers.

AROUND 30 firefighters took part in a training exercise at the Royal Mail Delivery Office in Huntingdon last night codenamed Exercise Pat.

The exercise aimed to test their response should a fire occur at this essential building in Penfold Court, St Peter's Way, Huntingdon, in which thousands of letters and parcels pass through each day.

Firefighters were given the scenario that a small fire had occurred in the building, which was heavily smoke logged. Several members of staff were thought to still be inside.

Crews wearing breathing apparatus entered the building to search for the missing workers, while their colleagues set up hose reels and jets ready to tackle the fire. The exercise was carried out in real time and was also designed to test operational command and control at an incident requiring a number of fire engines to attend.

Key objectives were to prevent any loss of life and to minimise the damage caused to the building. However, the exercise also succeeded in enabling firefighters to familiarise themselves with the layout of the site and the location of water hydrants and other firefighting aids.

Staff at Royal Mail also got involved by acting as casualties. They also used the exercise as an opportunity to practise their own fire evacuation procedures.

The site was identified as a good place for an exercise by three Royal Mail workers, who also serve as retained firefighters for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Callum Faint, Training Representative for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service in the Huntingdon district said: "The exercise gave firefighters the opportunity to practise these essential lifesaving skills in a realistic environment, in real time. They performed well, rescuing casualties quickly and minimising the damage that would have been caused to the building had the fire been real.

"The exercise also enabled firefighters to familiarise themselves with the Royal Mail building so they have a good working knowledge of the site should a fire occur.

"I'd like to thank Royal Mail for agreeing to stage the exercise at their building, and for proactively supporting the retained duty system."

A Royal Mail spokesman said: "We are delighted to have been able to offer our assistance to the Fire and Rescue Service in what is vital training work.

"We very much appreciate the incredible support and contribution they make to the community and are happy to help in any way we can."