11 February 2020

A dramatic rescue by air and sea saw Loughborough College students at the centre of a full-scale disaster training exercise.

Stranded on an island in the devastating aftermath of a hurricane, the College students faced traumatic scenarios including flooding, fire and crying babies trapped in collapsing buildings as part of a Royal Navy international operation simulation involving more than 2,000 personnel.

“Our public services and caring services students had never been more relieved than when HMS Albion emerged from the mist, a helicopter appeared overhead and the Royal Marines shot over the water in their speed boats and arrived in their landing craft on the beach,” said Loughborough College public services lead Tim Turner.

“For two days more than 90 of our students were given the opportunity to ‘become’ Caribbean island disaster victims and to experience first-hand the extreme distress of the first hours following a devastating tropical storm.

“They were involved in search and rescue, which involved them going into pitch black buildings, carefully removing one brick at a time for fear it would collapse, as they listened for the cries of a trapped baby and navigated rapidly flooding tunnels, surrounded by the screams and blood of injured islanders, all while struggling with exposure through lack of shelter and power, contaminated water and lack of food. It was frighteningly real.

“The students also had the chance to experience the non-tactical elements of the evacuation such as Foreign Office and Department for International Development processes as they reached the vessel. This included cross-referencing personnel via satellite phone for fake ID, a criminal record, or being outside international agreements between countries, and screening for weapons. Medical checking was also used to segregate victims, as necessary, to guard against the spread of illness. The students also received a briefing from Shelterbox, an NGO which offers support to disaster-hit people across the world.

“This was a major training exercise for the Royal Navy, with aircraft carriers like HMS Albion and its Royal Marine detachment in line for deployment in non-combatant areas, as well as situations where there is a military threat – and our students were given incredible access. In fact, it is testament to Loughborough College’s reputation that the Royal Navy requested we take part in the exercise at the Plymouth naval base and that ours were the only students involved.

“The Commanding Officer came to thank us at the end of the exercise, saying how impressive our students had been and praising them for their initiative and performance over the two days.

“To be on the ground at the sharp end and to see the navy and the marines in action as this massive operation unfolded was a real eye opener for all our learners. They had never seen anything like it. It gave them all invaluable experience and it was an exciting insight for the public services students into something they could find themselves involved in for real within a year.

“What’s more it gave one of our students, Neave Flood, a birthday she will never forget. She got to announce it over the ‘phone on the bridge to the whole of the carrier!”

Thank you to Liz Udall from Loughborough College for submitting this news story. If you would like to share a news story from your organisation, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at media@skillsedugroup.co.uk