Craighall Gorge on the outskirts of Blairgowrie was the location for a multi-agency training exercise for members of the emergency services recently.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service crews from Blairgowrie, the Perth-based swift water rescue advanced technicians and Police Scotland’s mountain rescue team were all involved.

The mocked-up scenario involved the rescue of a canyoner, played by volunteer Andy Blair from The Canyoning Company.

Paul Smith is the crew manager at Blairgowrie Fire Station.

He said: “This was a large multi-agency exercise, one of the biggest undertaken in Blairgowrie, with around 30 personnel involved, and is part of our commitment to the development of our firefighters and firefighter safety.

“By training in these environments it helps local crews understand and train for the immediate risks in our area.

Rescue crews take to the water

“This event also provided an opportunity to work with other agencies in a real-time, unique and dynamic environment which is invaluable when it comes to real-life incidents as we know each other and how each other works.

“We chose to carry out this simulated situation in that location because it is within a risk area, somewhere that we could be asked to attend a real-life incident.

“Craighall Gorge is one of the deepest in the UK and it’s not always an easy environment to work in.

“With the rivers Tay, Ericht and Isla, and all the lochs, Perthshire has the biggest volume of water in Britain for the size of the region.

“The number of water-related incidents that require a specialist response are increasing.”

The original idea for the session came from a conversation Craig Jack from Perth Fire Station had with Andy Blair during the winter.

Paul added: “We have planning for this exercise for a couple of months, visiting the site, speaking to local landowners, gathering local knowledge and getting together with the different agencies involved.

“Two station managers also attended the exercise to evaluate how we did things and provide feedback at the debrief.”

Ricky Stroud is the station manager at Blairgowrie.

He said: “The aim of the exercise is to test how the units respond to a simulated incident.

“We have had various incidents throughout the area that have involved joint service responses and the debriefs identified a need for working together.

“That’s an ongoing process and this exercise is part of that.”

The exercise helped crews evaluate risks

Station manager at Perth, Scott Gibson, added: “This was a great example of multi-agency working allowing staff to practice techniques in a realistic environment.

“It’s an invaluable opportunity to familiarise ourselves with each other’s working practices which will benefit all the organisations should such an incident occur for real.

“I would like to say a big thank you to all those involved for taking part and the organisers for the implementation of this exercise.”

Sergeant David Kerr is from Police Scotland’s emergency and resilience planning team in Dundee and was one of those involved in the operation.

He said: “This exercise is one part of an ongoing programme of multi-agency training currently taking place across Tayside designed to enhance the already excellent working relationships between the emergency services and the voluntary sector.

“It also provides an opportunity for incident commanders from the different agencies to gain a good understanding of each others collective capabilities and working practices, all with a view to the continuous improvement of rescue responses in Tayside.”

Also observing the exercise was Ian Richards, chair of Blairgowrie and Rattray Community Council and part of the community council’s resilience group.

He commented: “It was very reassuring to see the different emergency services working together and very impressive to see the coordination involved in responding to a situation.

“The cooperation of the different agencies all working towards the evacuation of a casualty from the gorge was great to see.”

• Pics: Clare Damodaran

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