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DHA plays crucial role in TT preparations 28 May 2008

Fire safety training for Travelling MarshalsTHE TT Festival brings into sharp focus the additional demands and challenges faced by the Island’s emergency services.

Preparations for TT 2008 have been taking place behind the scenes since the moment the chequered flag fell in the final race of last year’s Centenary TT. That work intensifies as the races draw nearer and the Island welcomes thousands of motorsport fans from around the world.

It is a particularly busy time for the Department of Home Affairs which has responsibility for many of the frontline services such as the IoM Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service and Communications Division. Annual leave is cancelled across the board as all divisions must run at full capacity in order to cope with the huge increase in workload.

Minister for Home Affairs Martyn Quayle said:

‘All sections of the department offer wide-ranging and committed support to the TT and to our colleagues at the Department of Tourism and Leisure and the Department of Transport. Our aim is to provide the highest standard of community safety possible and a considerable amount of pre-planning goes into achieving that. Members of staff often work long hours during the TT and I am grateful for their enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism.’

Police officers are at the forefront of efforts to ensure that local residents, visitors and competitors enjoy the many TT-related activities as safely as possible. Overseeing all the strategic and operational planning is a massive undertaking, with road closures, prohibited areas, the one-way system and special events to consider in addition to regular duties. A specialist TT control centre has been established at Police headquarters under the leadership of Superintendent Carolyn Kinrade to co-ordinate the many different aspects of policing the festival.

Chief Constable Mike Langdon, who is also Chief Marshal for the TT, said:

‘The Isle of Man Constabulary is proud of its efforts in assisting in TT preparations. I believe we have demonstrated our support for the event by involving ourselves outside of traditional policing domains. We have also lent our skills in operational planning and shown a positive, can-do attitude across the board.’

Working in partnership with other emergency services, race organisers, marshals and volunteers, officers concentrate their efforts on road safety, crime prevention and maintaining public order. The friendly policing style of the IoM Constabulary has received many plaudits in recent years for helping to contribute to the festival atmosphere of the TT. However, the police retain a hard line on public order offences and drug-related crime, while utilising their early intervention strategy in a bid to reduce the number of serious incidents.

Chief Constable Langdon said:

‘Our officers know how important it is to adopt a friendly and fair approach. Visitors frequently comment on the excellent relationship we enjoy with the public which is a major contributor to the low levels of crime we experience during the event.’

The multitude of roles performed by the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service are also thrust into the spotlight by the unique demands of the TT. Planning is undertaken on a year-round basis, with members of the Community Safety Team visiting properties registered under the Homestay scheme.

Fire safety inspections are carried out at various government and private properties ahead of the race period, including community areas such as campsites. Hotels, flats, licensed premises and entertainment venues are also risk assessed as part of the prevention and protection policy.

During the countdown towards the TT races, the Fire and Rescue Service reviews the operational orders in place for the Mountain Course and stages a series of briefings to bring firefighters up to date with any changes. Fire appliances are fitted with special equipment for deployment at the TT Grandstand and around the course, while travelling marshals undergo practical training at Douglas Fire Station.

Officers also conduct operational inspections of high-profile events – such as the Douglas Promenade entertainment zone – in order to maximise public safety. These tasks are all undertaken while maintaining a normal operational response in the event of any incidents occurring during practice or race weeks.

Police officer on patrolCommunication is crucial during the TT period and this is where the Island’s TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) system and Emergency Services Joint Control Room (ESJCR) play a prominent role. All police officers, fire crews, marshals, race controllers, vehicles and helicopters use TETRA and last year the network handled 153,300 calls during TT fortnight.

Communications Division Technical Director Robert Williamson said:

‘The TT simply could not run without the TETRA system so a lot of time and effort is spent ahead of the event to ensure that everything is ready.’

Calls to the emergency services increase significantly during the TT period. During the 2007 Centenary celebrations the Island’s ESJCR dealt with 1,884 emergency events, 910 emergency 999 calls and 26,267 non-999 calls. The average time for operators to answer each call was just 1.84 seconds.

ESJCR Operations Manager Bill McCann said:

‘We are just about to embark on our fifth TT since the TETRA system and ESJCR went live in April 2004. Operationally TT 2007 was a great success and it was testament to the hard work and determination of staff that the huge number of reported incidents was dealt with in a professional manner. The TT races always attract enormous scrutiny from outside sources, possibly even more so following the result of the recent inquest into last year’s tragedy on the final race day. ‘In many cases ESJCR staff represent the first point of contact for people requiring the emergency services, often while they are experiencing great emotional distress. Our personnel play a vital role and the emergency services and public rely on their professional judgement in many emergency and non-emergency situations.’

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