Luas and Dublin Bus crash simulated

Bronwyn Molony reports on a recent simulated tram and bus crash in Dublin.

Dublin Fire Brigade and Luas operators recently staged a simulated crash exercise in preparation for the opening of the new Luas Cross City line. The incident was staged on Parnell Street and involved personnel from Dublin Fire Brigade, Luas operator Transdev and Dublin Bus as well as gardaí.

The simulated crash exercise carried out was a major emergency exercise, involving the simulated crash of a bus from the Dublin Bus fleet and a Luas tram, resulting in three simulated casualties. The exercise was carried out in order to practise the necessary communication between the several agencies involved, should a real incident like this occur.

District Officer (DO) with Dublin Fire Brigade Dereck Cheevers said: “The biggest component of this exercise is communication. Being able to communicate effectively in the event of a major emergency like this is critical.” Alan Dillon, also of Dublin Fire Brigade and the incident commander at the scene, said: “High-quality training is crucial. It all went to plan and so real incidents are more likely to go smoothly.”

Dublin Fire Brigade are uniquely placed to respond to an incident like this because of the paramedic training all firefighters have. It means that every person on a fire tender can act as a paramedic as well as a firefighter at a major emergency like the one simulated recently.

In order to carry out the exercise, Luas operator Transdev placed a Luas tram on the tracks at Parnell Street. Dublin Fire Brigade put their double decker-bus in place and the three simulated casualties were placed: one in the bus, one in the Luas and one on the street. The call is then radioed to Dublin Fire Brigade, who have fire tenders waiting.

DO Derek Cheevers said: “We can’t in good conscience have fire tenders leaving the stations with lights and sirens going, given that it’s an exercise. What if they got in a crash or caused one on the way here?”

The exercise involved three regular water tenders and one rescue tender carrying heavy-duty equipment, as well as an ambulance. Once on the scene, Dublin Fire Brigade contacted Luas who cut the power to that section of the line. Dublin Fire Brigade then earthed the overhead Luas wires as a secondary precaution in case the lines are accidentally turned on during the exercise. Turning the overhead lines off also ensures that no other Luas can come into that section of track.

“The biggest component of this exercise is communication”

Dublin Fire Brigade also sent a DO to Luas headquarters to liaise with Luas officials. Once the scene was secure, the firefighters and paramedics could safely tend to the casualties.

From start to finish, the exercise took only an hour, and the fire tenders had been on the scene for mere minutes before the “walking wounded” casualties were being taken away. The exercise drew some attention from onlookers and traffic slowed down to stare. DO Derek Cheevers said exercises like this and genuine accidents usually attracted a lot of bystanders.

The exercise came at one of the busiest times of the year for Dublin Fire Brigade. Halloween is typically the fire brigade’s busiest time of year. Bonfires being set and the threatening behaviour that accompanies the bonfires mean Halloween is the firefighters’ least favourite time of year and they said that the lead-up to Halloween seemed to get longer every year.

Firefighters at the Pearse Street headquarters said that this was the one time of year that they would go to a call in full gear, including their protective helmets, because of the potential for rocks and other projectiles to be thrown at the firefighters.

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