One 110 emergency services workers from across Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary responded to a simulated car pile up under the River Shannon on Friday.
The Limerick Tunnel, which is scheduled to open to motorists on July 16, was filled with smoke from the burning vehicles during the simulated exercise designed to test the Emergency Services Inter Agency response to a major incident in the tunnel. The three principal emergency response agencies were the Local Authorities, the Health Services Executive and An Garda Síochána. The drill also tested the Tunnel Operator’s response to the incident and verifies that the tunnel life safety systems work correctly.
The emergency drill is required under the new European Tunnel Safety Directive which was adopted into Irish law in May 2006. The success of the emergency drill paves the way for the Limerick Tunnel to be opened later in the month.
Tom King, General Manager for DirectRoute, stated: “preparation of the emergency drill started as far back as October 2006 when the first Tunnel Design and Safety Consultation Group (TDSCG) meeting was held, bringing together members of the emergency services and other project stakeholders.”
Mr. King added: “Dedicated in-tunnel training started in September 2009 when 25 fire fighters received training in Switzerland. A total of eight tunnel training modules were then conducted in the Limerick Tunnel to train 150 fire fighters, the Ambulance Services and An Garda Síochána. The emergency drill is the culmination of all the dedicated training and effort put in by the emergency services and the great success achieved is testimony to their commitment and professionalism.”
John Gillard, the Tunnel Safety Officer for DirectRoute, with a lifetimes experience in tunnel operations across the UK and Europe stated: “This is the best emergency drill I have ever witnessed in my career to date. The Tunnel Control Systems are excellent and the automation systems control interface is the best I have ever seen. Eoghan O Sullivan, the tunnel Duty Officer, was very professional and cool under pressure and did an excellent job.”
At a wash-up meeting held at the South Court Hotel after the drill, Mr Geoff Burt, NRA Tunnel Operations Manager, commented that this was the best emergency drill he had witnessed and that the planning and execution of the drill was a credit to all involved.
Carmel Kirby, Chief Fire Officer LCC and lead coordinator for the drill, commented that she was very pleased with the success of the drill and that a lot of valuable lessons were learned by everyone on the day.
An Garda Síochána Inspector Seamus Ruane commented “I am very pleased with the response given by our organisation and feel that the simulation was a very worth while exercise. The tunnel systems and facilities provided for such an emergency are impressive and worked very well under the DirectRoute tunnel management team.”