Gary McEwen (Investment Manager at Livv Housing Group), Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan, Zoe Wilkinson from the Home Office and Jacqui Campbell (Director of Assets at Livv Housing Group)

Knowsley-based Livv Housing Group is working with Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service to help crews locally and nationally improve their emergency response to dealing with high-rise incidents.

A major training exercise took place yesterday (July 22) at Livv’s Gaywood Green tower block, in Kirkby, which is currently unoccupied.

Gaywood Green is thought to be the only empty high rise building in the country being used by a fire service to undertake live practice scenarios.

Whilst this high-rise exercise is the first of its size since coronavirus, it follows more than 18 months’ worth of smaller-scale exercises at the Kirkby site.

The training day involved the simulation of a fire in Block 4 of Gaywood Green with actors posing as residents in need of evacuation.

A total of eight fire engines, two support vehicles and an aerial platform ladder vehicle rushed to the scene, with around 80 emergency service staff taking part in the exercise.

Training exercises such as these are designed to test a number of areas and give new firefighters the opportunity to experience a realistic fire and evacuation scenario in a high-rise building.

It also gave Fire Control Operators the opportunity to put their high-rise fire survival guidance techniques to the test.

The exercise will be thoroughly evaluated and any learning outcomes will be shared locally and nationally in effort to improve safety and hopefully reduce the possibility of future high-rise fires.

Tony Cahill, Executive Director at Livv Housing Group, said:

“The safety and protection of our residents is of the upmost importance to us, which is why we are proud to be working in partnership with Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service to help them prepare for high rise emergency incidents.

“As far as we are aware, Gaywood Green is the only empty high rise building in the country that is being used by a fire service to undertake live exercises like this, and as a result MFRS will be able to share learnings with other fire services around the country.”

Dave Watson, Group Manager at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, added:

“We work closely with housing providers and local authorities to ensure the safety of those living within high rise buildings and exercises like this are vital – we would like to thank Livv Housing and the local community for giving us the opportunity to carry out a large exercise in a realistic setting.

“While the risk of serious fire in a high rise building in Merseyside is low thanks in large part to our preventative work in the community, the Grenfell Tower tragedy is a constant reminder of what can happen when those risks become real. This exercise gave us a real opportunity to test our current procedures and national guidance, ensuring they are robust, effective and fit for the future.”