Multi-agency exercise tests emergency services response to terrorist and chemical attack

Police, Fire and Ambulance services in Northamptonshire and neighbouring counties joined forces last week to test their joint response to a terrorist and chemical attack during a multi-agency training exercise at Silverstone circuit.

Exercise Callicarpa, one of the largest training exercises of its kind in recent years, allowed the emergency services to test their strategic and tactical responses, as well as evaluating how well they communicate with each other at largescale major incidents.

The first phase of the exercise tested the response to a marauding terrorist attack. This saw Northamptonshire Police – supported by Counter Terrorist Policing East Midlands (CPTEM) -  deliver a realistic scenario where firearms officers responded to an attack on foot with multiple casualties.



Once the area had been declared safe, Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service and East Midlands Ambulance Service were able to start initial casualty management, with student volunteers from Moulton College playing injured members of the public requiring treatment.

The final phase of the exercise replicated a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) incident involving an unknown chemical substance. This tested how Police, Fire and EMAS were able to neutralise the threat safely and decontaminate both members of the public as well as their own staff on-site.

Superintendent Jen Helm, of Northamptonshire Police, said: “Over the last few years policing has evolved in how we respond to these kinds of incidents, particularly after the findings of various inquests such as the Manchester Arena Inquiry.

“These events in real life are rare, but when they happen, they are complex and dynamic with lots of moving parts. No agency can resolve them alone. Exercises like Callicarpa help us learn how to maximise opportunities to tackle the threat and reduce harm to everyone.”

“Replicating something on this scale probably hasn't happened within the county for quite a long time, and it's given us a real opportunity to identify how the respective emergency services work well together, what the gaps are, and where we can better improve things such as communications and understanding capabilities.”



A number of fire engines from Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service were on scene, as well as appliances from neighbouring Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and the Detection, Identification and Monitoring unit from Leicestershire, the latter of which would help to detect what the chemical substance was.

The event also allowed Northamptonshire crews the opportunity to test the deployment of the Mass Decontamination Unit, which can process up to 300 casualties in an hour and contains a de-robe section, showers and a re-robe section for contaminated members of the public.

Group Commander Rob Green, of Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Thankfully the likelihood of such an event happening in real life is small, but training exercises such as this help us learn how we can support each other, share any risks or situational awareness and then deploy the right resources appropriately. I’d like to thank Silverstone circuit for allowing us to use their facilities in order to help us do that.

“This exercise has allowed us to have a better understanding of how we can work together to resolve incidents on this scale and keep people safe.”


Alex Lacey, Chief Operating Officer, Silverstone, added: “We’re very pleased to have been able to support the agencies for Exercise Callicarpa by providing an appropriate environment and infrastructure to deliver this large-scale training event.

“The exercise has not only been invaluable to the many services involved, but also important for our venue, which along with a calendar of sport, entertainment and business events, holds the largest sporting event in the UK, hosting the Formula 1 British Grand Prix.”

If you have any information about activity or behaviour that doesn’t feel right, please report it to Counter Terrorism Policing.

You can either fill in a secure online form at www.gov.uk/ACT or call 0800 789 321.

In an emergency you should always dial 999.

Credit: Northamptonshire Police / Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service