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C-c-cold and wet, but worthwhile

Officers from Boston Borough Council rushed to the coast when a major oil spillage at sea threatened a large-scale pollution incident.

Fortunately Exercise Grey Seal was an exercise designed to test resilience in the face of a major disaster.

Staff from the borough council took part in both the beach exercise at Mablethorpe and in the emergency "bunker" at fire and rescue headquarters in Lincoln.

Those on the beaches helping deal with a scenario in which an oil slick was washed ashore faced one of the coldest and wettest days of the year.

One worker from Boston said: "We were well equipped, but after many hours not even the best of waterproof clothing would have given in. We were wet and cold by the end of a long day on day on the beach, but learned a huge amount from the experience. Desktop exercises are useful, but there is nothing like being on the ground."

Lincolnshire and Humberside Resilience Forums, made up of local councils, emergency services and the Environment Agency, responded. The national exercise also involved more than 60 public and private sector organisation over three days.

The scenario was a serious shipping collision between a P&O ferry carrying 750 passengers and Shell Oil Tanker off the Humber coastline. Bad enough but then everything that could go wrong - did go wrong.

There were casualties, polluted seas, illnesses, IT problems, fire alarms, rumours, speculation, photos, videos, seals and birds covered in oil, dead whales and national media scrutiny - all played out on social media and shared around the world.

A fishery surrounding a five nautical mile range of the oil spill also had to be closed to ensure the food chain was not contaminated.

Ex Grey Seal Boston team Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Matt Watson, John Dyson, Matt Fisher, Donna Brewer, Alison Means, Andy Fisher, Ronnie Myers, Peter Hunn and Simon Bowens

Ex Grey Seal beach workers Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Boston "beachmasters" working on a ditch on the beach to contain an anticipated oil spill

Ex Grey Seal Boston team on the beach Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Other members of the Boston team at the oil pollution exercise