The Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service (DSFRS) Academy’s Fire Behaviour School is based at Exeter International Airport, UK and in summer 2013 a new state of the art Fire Behaviour training facility was constructed.
The Fire Behaviour School is a BTEC accredited live fire training provider, that specialises in delivering breathing apparatus (BA), compartment firefighting and positive pressure ventilation training. The school trains in excess of 2,000 operational staff within the service as well as instructors from 43 UK and international fire authorities.
The £3.35 million training site provides facilities for fire behaviour, hot fire and foam training. The building includes mock-up houses and an aeroplane to practice specialist firefighting techniques using life-like scenarios.
The Fire Behaviour School was established in 1997 and already had a base at the airport. Due to the practical nature of the training, the space needed and the generation of smoke on a daily basis, the airport site was the ideal location. The new building houses everything that is expected from a modern fire and rescue training establishment including lecture rooms, an incident command suite, dining rooms, changing and shower rooms, drying rooms, BA servicing areas and storage areas. In addition to the main building, the site includes a three storey multi compartment structure for hot fire training, a large concrete training pad with various diverter valves for different classes of foam training, a cold BA training complex, attack containers and fire behaviour demo containers. The site is also a base for Academy office staff as well as the Fire Behaviour School instructors.
The addition of the hot multi compartment structure has resulted in a more versatile training facility. It is built over three floors and has rising main. The protected stairwell at one end can be used to simulate high rise incidents. There are 14 positions to burn crib fires, spread over all three levels. There are two stair cases and each level has access to fresh air virtually all round. The building is fitted with an extraction system and temperature monitoring is throughout. The new structure provides the Academy with a number of options to have realistic live fire training, ranging from domestic property to industrial high rise. The Fire Behaviour School worked closely with the supplier Kenex Engineering throughout the building project and Kenex was able to respond to the specific requirements of the school to ensure that the building had a multi-functional use. Ian Bartlett, Station Manager at the Fire Behaviour School said: “Kenex Engineering were very responsive to our needs and involved us from the design stage right through to the commissioning of the building. They have provided us with a fantastic building that fits our needs perfectly. They also provide a very professional aftercare service that ensures that the multi-compartment structure is inspected and maintained regularly to ensure it operates safely and within tightening budgets”.
The Academy also worked closely with Exeter International Airport to develop a training centre that accommodates everyone’s needs. A large (5525 sq m) training slab was included in the build and in the near future this will include an aircraft simulator with the possibility of a similar helicopter version. Like many other services, DSFRS have struggled to find ways to practice and train with foam. The Academy is now able to contain the foam and with the use of diverter valves can keep different classes separate so that the waste product can be safely disposed of when the training is over.
The site position is very favourable for commercial customers; there is easy access from the M5, A30 and A38. Exeter Airport is a growing regional airport with regular flights to many UK destinations as well as most of Europe. Plenty of accommodation is available close to the site, which makes it very convenient for national and international customers to attend courses.
In July this year, the Fire Behaviour School was visited by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to officially thank all those involved for the excellent work carried out by Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, as well as other emergency services organisations during the winter weather response. Andy Newland is the Academy Manager, he said: “It was an honour to host the visit by their Royal Highnesses to our Academy site here at Exeter Airport on behalf of the local Blue Light services and Local Resilience Forum, we were blessed with great weather which was at the opposite scale to the winter storms, the reason why we were gathered together. Their Royal Highnesses met with representatives from responders and those supporting operations during the operationally challenging times from last winter and early spring. Their thanks to crews were appreciated by all present and we were grateful for them taking the time out with us while visiting the West Country. Before leaving us, the Royal couple observed a realistic joint agency response exercise using our training facilities on site and I know they were impressed with both the facilities and those taking part.”
The Academy’s Command School is also based at the airport site and recently RescueSim simulators have been installed for Incident Command training. The simulators were delivered and installed at the Academy by developer VSTEP. The addition of RescueSim will allow incident command trainers to produce fully immersive scenarios based on their operational requirements. Joe Hassell, Station Manager at the Academy said: “Being a large, rural fire and rescue service has presented our training staff with real challenges when it comes to providing our Incident Commanders with challenging and realistic training. Firefighter and public safety is Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service’s number one priority, and we believe RescueSim will assist us in achieving this aim. We are delighted to have signed a contract with VSTEP and have found their staff and trainers to be highly skilled, professional and attentive to our needs. We have started piloting RescueSim with our staff, with excellent feedback and look forward to developing our ICS training for all levels of command in the future”. The Academy are using the UK version of the RescueSim Simulator, which includes realistic UK Police, Ambulance and Highways Agency vehicles, appliances and personnel for realistic training of incidents.
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