Firefighters gather at Oldham tower block for highrise training exercise

FIRE fighters were called to a residential tower block in Oldham over the weekend, but fortunately this wasn’t an emergency – just a training exercise in a ‘live’ setting.

First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO) offered up the use of one of its tower blocks for the drill, conducted by Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service (GMFRS) to test its emergency evacuation procedures in response to a major incident in a highrise building.

Summervale House on Vale Drive is largely empty, as it is awaiting planned redevelopment, making it an ideal location, FCHO said. The remaining residents, and those living nearby – as well as local agencies such as the council and police – were informed of the exercise, so it wouldn’t come as a shock on the day.

Oldham Fire Drill
Tony Morgan, Greg McNally, and Alex Swift.

The planned exercise – controlled by the fire service – involved simulating a real fire in an empty flat by using synthetic smoke, evacuation techniques and following updated safety procedures.

By using FCHO’s tower block, the fire crews were able to carry out the exercise in a real-life environment that allowed them to train in a realistic scenario. The fire service was using the exercise to further develop and practise its High-rise Immediate Residents Evacuation (HIRE) procedures.

The fire service has previously practised these techniques at its Bury-based training centre.

“It’s fantastic we were able to assist one of our key partners in this way,” said Alex Swift, FCHO’s project manager for building compliance. “This particular tower block has a number of empty flats ahead of planned development work, so it was an obvious solution.

“We all know the importance of multi-agency working, but the success of this event really proved how valuable these strong partnerships can be.”

Tony Morgan, station manager at Oldham Community Fire Station, added: “Through thorough organisation and communication, both GMFRS and FCHO were able to carefully manage the exercise from start to finish, ensuring a smooth operation.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for their invaluable support, which allowed us to gather learnings on what we do well and understand where improvements can be applied to our practises moving forwards.”



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