Exercise Polar Storm: Scotland preparing for next winter

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Transport Minister Keith Brown has gathered 200 representatives together from various bodies responsible for road transport to participate in Exercise Polar Storm.

At Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, the group took part in a simulation to test readiness and plan for the next serious sub zero temperatures heavy snowfall situation.

Last winter saw extreme winter conditions paralyse the central belt – bringing Scotland’s roads to a halt.  The M8 was at a standstill for two days, some people having to spend the night in their vehicles in freezing temperatures.  The Transport Minister aims to prevent another winter roads paralysis from happening again.

Throwing himself into the task of improving transport systems management and coordination, Mr Brown spent nights in December 2010′s bitter conditions at various traffic control centers and since then has been planning Winter Readiness Week for this October (2011), focusing on emergency planning procedures.

Simulations, such as Excercise Polar Storm, provide a very powerful training tool in advance planning and crisis management.  Gaps in thinking and systems are quickly revealed, the most effective resourcing is spotlighted, every individual is tested under pressure.  A valuable element of the various Excercise Polar Storm’s scenarios was allowing all those involved to monitor and reflect upon their own performance and learn from the experience – blame or praise is not the point.

Excercise Polar Storm aimed to help the 200 key transport-related personnel involved meet the challenge of the next big snowstorm emergency.  Appropriate emergency responses and inter-organisational coordination were highlighted – the goal being to avoid transport organisations being overpowered by severe snowfall conditions.

Tangible progress is already being made: Transport Scotland has gained agreement from the haulage industry that lorries pull over to the side of the road, allowing access for snow ploughs and gritting lorries on roads starting to snow up.