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Exercise tests response to major emergency in the River Mersey

Lifeboats News Release

Emergency services and other organisations are working together this morning (21 November) as part of an exercise involving a scenario of an incident involving an aeroplane in the River Mersey.

RNLI/Chris Cousens

New Brighton RNLI lifeboat volunteers are involved in today's multi agency operation near Liverpool Airport

The event involves the Maritime & Coastguard Agency in the form of HM Coastguard, Merseyside Fire & Rescue service, Liverpool Airport Rescue and Firefighting Service, North West Ambulance Service and the RNLI.

In the scenario, the incident at the River Mersey happens after the pilot has been taken ill while on the approach to Liverpool’s John Lennon airport.

Emergency services are quickly sent in response in a race to rescue the ten people on board. HM Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter will be involved in a winching exercise from a Royal Navy ship.

The exercise will look at how each organisation responds, how they work together and what lessons can be learned.

Danny Jamson, senior coastal operations officer for HM Coastguard (the search and rescue arm of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency) said: ‘We’re training for the day we hope will never come but we need to make sure that if the worst happens, we can operate search and rescue in a way that will increase the chances of saving lives in an emergency.’

Team Leader Marine, Ian Kay, from Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, said: ‘This is an incident we hope we’ll never see – but we must prepare for different kinds of emergencies.

‘The best way to test our response is to run a training exercise from which we can learn. By taking part in this exercise, we can build experience and gather knowledge which could be put to effective use in a real emergency response.

‘This prepares Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service as an agency while giving us the opportunity to work alongside partners, developing constructive ways of working together.

‘Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service plays an integral role in this type of incident because of our ability to provide an immediate specialist response. Our Marine Rescue Unit, Search and Rescue Team and Fire Crews provide 24/7 cover to incidents both on the river and on land.’

Neil Gyllenship, Fire Service Manager for Liverpool John Lennon Airport said: ‘Unlike most other UK airports, Liverpool has the advantage of being located adjacent to a wide estuary which helps to minimise the environmental and noise impacts of an airport on local communities, however this can also bring challenges in the event of an emergency situation.

‘A river response is already incorporated into all our emergency procedures but an exercise like this is invaluable in testing and improving upon those plans in place.’

Ian Thornton, Lifeboat Operations Manager at New Brighton RNLI, said: ‘These kind of multi-agency training scenarios provide our volunteer lifeboat crew members with a fantastic opportunity to hone our skills in dealing with major incidents and working closely with our emergency service colleagues to achieve the best outcome.’

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Chris Cousens, RNLI Regional Media Officer, Wales and North West England, on 07748 265496 or

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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