Staging large-scale tunnel exercises

11 September 2020

Preparing emergency services for incidents in a tunnel is not easy. Yet it is very important that care providers can safely train with realistic scenarios. Just like on the normal road, traffic accidents and other incidents occur in tunnels. In order to guarantee the safety of a tunnel, Dutch tunnel legislation therefore prescribes that realistic exercises must be conducted every four years in the event of calamities.

In such a multidisciplinary exercise, the tunnel procedures of all parties involved matter. Think of the communication and cooperation among operational emergency services, but also the occurrence of calamities by traffic controllers and road recovery operators. FireWare specializes in supporting all parties involved in achieving the set exercise objectives. We do this by creating an extremely realistic staging, so that the staging is right for all parties involved. In addition, our staging specialists have built up extensive expertise over the years in setting up the exercise as realistically as possible, in the shortest possible set-up time.

Setup time – as short as possible

Closing a tunnel is extremely difficult. To hinder traffic as little as possible, tunnel exercises often take place in the middle of the night. Nevertheless, the tunnel is locked for hours. The parties involved are expected to make the tunnel freely accessible to traffic again at the set end time. Every minute of the exercise counts. Our staging specialists therefore strive to keep the set-up time for the staging to a minimum. To save time, all smoke machines are placed on a trailer and heated outside the tunnel by means of a large generator. When the tunnel is released, setting up the staging often takes less than 20 minutes! Keeping the staging time as short as possible leaves a lot of time for the actual exercise.

The training materials for tunnel exercises originate from FireWare’s specialized rental fleet, the largest of its kind in Europe. For example, the smoke machines, extinguishing trainers and flame simulations are always ready for use in our warehouse. And because the products are packed in handy and stackable Euronorm crates, you save yourself the headache of logistics!

Smoke build-up – realistic and vertical

Warm air and smoke rise. That is why some tunnels have powerful fans that exhaust smoke during a calamity. Therefore, the most common mistake in staging a tunnel fire is an insufficient impact power with the smoke simulation. For the staging of a developed car fire with several vehicles, you approximately need 30,000 m3 of smoke per minute. FireWare has enough Cumulus and Stratus smoke machines to produce these amounts of smoke. And because the smoke output is adjustable from 1 to 99%, the amount of smoke can be precisely adjusted to the phase of the deployment. In addition, the FireWare Stratus and FireWare Cumulus can be placed on their back and inject smoke vertically into the tunnel. This creates a realistic smoke build-up, with which even the operation of the tunnel ventilation can be practiced. By making smart use of the lighting in the tunnel, the optical illusion of black smoke can often be created. With the choice of Outdoor smoke fluid, the smoke also remains intact for a very long time.

During the exercise, not only the view of the emergency services, but also of the staging specialists is limited. This is where the added value of a remote-controlled central control comes in. This gives the stage operator a complete overview of the situation and what is happening in the underpass. Due to the great distances in the tunnel, various scenarios are often also controlled wirelessly. This method prevents the pulling of many control cables!

Extinguishing – challenging fire-fighting exercises without damaging the tunnel

When staging a tunnel fire, it is very important that not only the amount of smoke corresponds to an actual fire. Where there’s smoke, there is fire. Vesta fire extinguishers are used for the staging of genuinely burning vehicles. This keeps the exercise manageable and offers enough challenge for the troops. In addition, non-flammable surfaces, such as the hood of a scrap car, can be lubricated with low-smoke flammable gel and ignited safely.

The flame images can also be simulated. Phoenix Silkflames are used for this, in combination with FireSpots and the existing tunnel lighting. The flame simulation can also be controlled remotely by means of a control computer.

Video recording – optional for evaluation

Large-scale tunnel exercises do not take place on a regular basis. Hence, a thorough evaluation is inseparable from exercises of this nature. At FireWare we know that camera registration can play an important role here. During the exercise, the exercise leaders do not have to intervene for the assessment. And it is evaluated in the most objective way afterwards. This is important, as a good evaluation greatly increases the efficiency of the training! Camera registrations by FireWare can be provided in 360 degrees and take place centrally from a control vehicle. Nice and comfortable!


Curious about a number of tunnel exercises to which the FireWare staging specialists have contributed? Then view the articles about the calamity training exercise Leidsche Rhijntunnel A2, the large-scale tunnel exercises at Westfrisiaweg, the training exercise in the Westerschelde tunnel and the temporary exercise center in the new tunnels in Maastricht. We are also happy to discuss the possibilities with you!