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Univ stages major incident exercise

Firefighters at UnivOn the evening of Tuesday 12 December, Univ held a live exercise involving a simulated emergency response to a major incident involving a fire in the College. This is the first time an exercise of this scale has taken place at an Oxford college.

The University of Oxford Risk and Resilience Team and the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service were involved, and Oxford University Security Services and the other Oxford colleges were also made aware of the exercise. Other colleges also participated, acting as role players in the incident. St Anne’s, Worcester and Queen’s staff acted as injured residents and observed the exercise to gain insight into how to manage such an incident in their own colleges.

Angela Unsworth MBE, Domestic Bursar at Univ, said:
“We plan carefully to mitigate the risks associated with any fire incident in our buildings. The aim of the exercise was to fully test both our emergency response and business continuity procedures in the event of a major incident in the College. By testing the plans we can identify any gaps in our thinking or areas for improvement in our planning. It is always good practice to test our assumptions, until you put theory into practice you cannot be assured that your plan will work. In that it was a  very successful exercise; both the College and the Fire and Rescue Service gained a lot of useful learning from walking through our procedures. We are enormously grateful to the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service for their time, the University’s Risk and Resilience Team for their guidance and the operational team at Univ for how determined they were to engage fully with this exercise not just to  ensure that everything went smoothly on the night, but to ensure that if we ever had to do this for real, we would do the very best we could for our College.”

The simulation saw a mock fire in a staircase in one of the College’s Grade-1-listed buildings, with cosmetic smoke and “live” casualties positioned in the building to create a realistic rescue situation. As part of the staged incident there were a number of fire appliances located along the High Street outside the College and hoses run from hydrants, with fire service personnel in breathing apparatus travelling back and forth between the College and the appliances.

Jason Clifford from the Oxford Fire and Rescue Service explained how the practice “allowed for a better working relationship in the event of an emergency” between the fire service and the College.

Published: 18 December 2023

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