NEAS crews were put to the test during a fake armed robbery and siege which played out in Hartlepool and Stockton as part of one of the largest outdoor emergency exercises to have ever taken place in Cleveland.
Operation Sandpiper took the Local Resilience Forum around a year to plan and also involved agencies such as Cleveland Police, Hartlepool Borough Council, Cleveland Fire Brigade, NHS England and British Red Cross.
Other than knowing a live exercise would take place, senior officers and executives were kept in the dark about its nature to ensure as real a response as possible.
Representatives from Amputees in Action helped to set the scene alongside 70-80 students from Hartlepool College of Further Education, who worked on make-up, set building, catering, photography and pretended to be victims.
Members of North East Ambulance Service’s Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) played a critical role in the operation.
The whole exercise involved around 150 people in total.
The day started with an attempted robbery at Tesco in Stockton, with a fatal road accident caused by the armed gang as they fled.
The gang then abandoned their vehicle and set it alight before hijacking another car and driving to Hartlepool, where they took students hostage at Jackson’s Landing retail park, which had been turned into a college for the day.
Members of the public were able to follow the exercise as it happened though social media using the hashtag #LRF2015.
Yvonne Ormston, NEAS chief executive, said: “It was great to see everyone in action, and the whole day went incredibly well.
“Exercises such as this are incredibly important to ensure our plans are robust enough to cope with a real life emergency as they allow us to test out the decisions which would be made in a similar real situation.
“This was also a great example of partnership working. Thank you to everyone involved who made it a success.”
Andy Steel, assistant principal at the college, added: “Those who were involved had a very positive experience and many of them are thinking about joining the services. It gave them an opportunity they would otherwise never have had – an insight into these types of scenarios.”