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Castle Mona Hotel used for emergency services training 1 August 2008

Castle Mona training exerciseTHE Castle Mona Hotel may have been closed to paying guests for the past 18 months, but it continues to play an active role in Island life.

Since December 2006, the 98-bed premises on Central Promenade in Douglas has been utilised for training purposes by the Department of Home Affairs. Members of the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service have ventured inside the hotel as part of their breathing apparatus drills. And the Police have also used the landmark building to train their explosives, drugs and firearms detection dogs.

Minister for Home Affairs Martyn Quayle MHK said: ‘We are extremely grateful to the Sefton Group for allowing us to use the Castle Mona. It has proved invaluable and added a new dimension to the type of training that can be conducted by our frontline agencies to enhance the skills of local officers.’

The Castle Mona has remained virtually untouched since the closure notices went up towards the end of 2006. It was later acquired by the Sefton Group which plans to restore the 19th Century building to its former glory. But for the time being the hotel has been given a new lease of life as a training venue for the emergency services. The basement area, kitchens, corridors and first-floor bedrooms have provided a realistic backdrop for a series of casualty recovery and search exercises.

The Fire Service training scenarios have involved officers entering the building wearing full kit, flash hoods and breathing apparatus. Helmets are fitted with obscuration visors to simulate working in a smoke-filled environment. Working in teams of two, officers set about searching corridors and rooms to recover Fire Service dummies left on beds or concealed in wardrobes.

A safety officer is on hand at all times and assessments are carried out to ensure that firefighters adopt standard procedures and techniques. As well as full-time personnel from Douglas, retained officers from Peel, Kirk Michael, Laxey, Ramsey, Castletown and Port Erin have also been put through their paces at the Castle Mona.

Douglas Station Officer Mark Christian, who is one of the BA training supervisors, said:

‘The feedback from all the different crews has been universally positive. We would like to thank the Sefton Group for providing us with such a fantastic training venue. The fact that everything is still in place from when it was a working hotel means it is as realistic as you could hope for. The rooms contain beds, bedding and furniture so they offer the ideal setting for our BA and casualty recovery scenarios.’

Firefighters enter Castle MonaSergeant Ian Kelly, the officer in charge of the Police Dogs Unit, was equally enthusiastic about what the Castle Mona had to offer. Members of his team have used the building as a training area for the Constabulary’s Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Belgian Shepherds, German Shepherds and Labradors.

Sergeant Kelly said:

‘It’s a secure premises so the dogs are contained within the building and it is available 24 hours a day which enhances the realism of our training. The variety of settings, such as the corridors and rooms, large bar area and nightclub, means the hotel can host a wide array of different exercises. The Sefton Group and the staff on site have also been extremely co-operative and understanding and have assisted us wherever possible.’

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