Planning for disaster

Scenes that involve multiple ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles are usually major incidents requiring the breadth of expertise available across the emergency services. On such occasions, the services work together to ensure a swift and effective response that safeguards the lives of those involved.

Staff have to think quickly, strategically and draw on their previous experience and training to ensure as positive an outcome as possible. It is therefore rare for more than 25 emergency vehicles, including a helicopter and a boat, to be in the same place for reasons other than a major incident.

But an emergency village was created at the University of Wolverhampton recently to launch two innovative degrees that have been developed with industry professionals. The impressive village, which included specialist ambulances, a decontamination tent, Network Rail incident response vehicles, a front-line fire engine and police cars, was created to highlight the strength of the partnership between the University and the emergency services and transport sector that has led to the development of the courses.

The innovative courses – which are an MSc Emergency Planning, Resilience and Response and a Postgraduate Certificate in the Management of Passenger Transport Emergency Incidents – aim to equip emergency and passenger transport professionals with the skills to deal with major incidents, such as accidents or terrorist attacks.

Professor Linda Lang, Dean of the School of Health and Wellbeing, says: “What really sets these degrees apart is the way they have been developed with our partners in the emergency services and transport sector to ensure they meet the needs of today’s services, which face different challenges and obstacles when major incidents occur.

“We are sure that students completing the courses will gain valuable experience of working in partnership with other agencies so they are well prepared for situations requiring emergency planning expertise.”

Strategic skills

Ideal for those already working in the field of emergency planning or in front-line services, the MSc Emergency Planning, Resilience and Response provides opportunities to take part in exercises and training in simulated settings with a range of professional organisations involved in emergency planning.

Students will develop strategic leadership skills and gain further experience in multi-agency working as part of their studies.

The Postgraduate Certificate in the Management of Passenger Transport Emergency Incidents is aimed at people who work in passenger transport, those who respond to emergencies such as the ‘blue-light services’ and local authorities, and people seeking employment in these areas. It provides a superb opportunity for people to professionalise their role and for organisations to strengthen their business by improving their readiness, relationships, response, recovery and reputation.

Willie Baker, a recently retired British Transport Police Superintendent, has been instrumental in establishing the Management of Passenger Transport Emergency Incidents course.

He explains: “Completion of the course means that for the first time people will be recognised as being academically qualified to fulfil their important role. This is a huge benefit not just in terms of staff development but also in strengthening the business and the wider industry.”

Joined-up thinking

The successful launch was attended by some notable figures from the emergency services and transport industry, including West Midlands Fire Service’s Chief Fire Officer, Vij Randeniya; Chief Superintendent of West Midlands Police, Chris McKeogh and Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Trains, representing the Institution of Railway Operators, Chris Gibb. Head of NHS Preparedness, Phil Storr, from the Department of Health also spoke at the event.

Anthony Marsh, Chief Executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, spoke about the strength of the partnership with the University, and the benefits to participants of completing the MSc Emergency Planning, Resilience and Response.

He said: “This exciting new programme draws together the unique partnerships that the University of Wolverhampton has established.

Programmes such as this are increasingly important, which we fully recognise, demonstrated by our commitment to supporting and developing the University course.

One of the many advantages that differentiates this programme to others is the extent to which we have partnered with other key stakeholders to ensure an appropriate programme is delivered.”

In an ideal world, the sort of incidents that require emergency planning skills would not happen.

But it is good to know that those in the blue light services and transport industry are well prepared, effectively trained and experienced to work together to deal with such emergencies when they inevitably occur.