HMS Westminster joins forces with the Met police to deal with disaster

Added: 6th September 2017 by Royal Navy

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Sailors from HMS Westminster summon all their strength to move a smashed-up Daewoo Matiz out of the way in the aftermath of disaster striking the capital - answering the question: what could a frigate do in the event of a crisis?

The ship's company were put through paces alongside the Met Police and its Marine Policing Unit in a combined disaster relief exercise. In Plymouth.

The Portsmouth-based warship is in the later stages of regeneration following a two-year-long refit in her home base.

She's undergoing Operational Sea Training - the essential assessment all Royal Navy vessels must undergo before being permitted to deploy.

A permanent fixture on the two-month-long programme provided by the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation is Distex (DISasTer relief EXercise), with a special facility at Bull Point in Devonport able to recreate all manner of mayhem: fires, floods, crashed cars, vehicles stuck in rivers, collapsed buildings and bridges, leaking water supplies, downed electricity wires - everything you might expect in the wake of a storm, earthquake, or tsunami.

It's bread and butter to RN personnel - they regularly assist overseas in the wake of such natural disasters - but the presence of the Metropolitan Police with their vast experience of dealing with complex scenarios such as terror attacks or the Grenfell Tower fire brought a fresh perspective.

"If a disaster was to befall the UK, Westminster could be deployed to support the civil authorities in their relief efforts," explained Sub Lieutenant Harriet Delbridge, the frigate's deputy logistics officer.

"We can act as a hospital, an airport, a communications hub, a canteen, a water treatment plant and provide a pool of highly-qualified personnel to help return stability to the area."

Inspector Chris Green from the Met's Marine Policing Unit said his team found working alongside the frigate a real eye-opener.

"It was a fantastic to see how the emergency services and the Royal Navy can work together to save lives and bring relief to a community following a disaster," he added.

"The array of skills that the HMS Westminster can provide is awe inspiring and while I hope we never need to work together in a real life scenario, it is reassuring to have witnessed the professionalism, teamwork and can-do attitude of the sailors and know that such outstanding people and skills are available to assist the civil authorities if needed."

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