NTES Volunteers conduct real-time exercise

26 April 2012
An earthquake in the Timor Sea measuring 8.0 has given the City of Darwin a severe shake.
It takes guts to be a victim.  Tracy Rowe makes sure Andy McKay looks the part
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Fire and Rescue Services are responding to several fires and other incidents which have stretched resources.

Suddenly there is another call – a twenty-first birthday party being held in the old WWll oil storage tunnels reports an explosion.  Up to forty guests were present and not all have been accounted for.

The Northern Territory Emergency Service is called on to respond.

This is the scenario facing the 15 volunteers from the Darwin and Palmerston units who arrive on scene a few minutes later.

Exercise co-ordinator Alison Heath, the NTES Darwin Area Manager, has planned for some of the new members to take the lead.

“We used most of our experienced volunteers and usual leaders as the casualties for this exercise so we could assess where our newer members were at.

“With minimal help the newly inducted members, with help from experienced volunteers, had to set up lights and communication, get themselves into teams and prepare to enter the dark, smoke filled tunnels.”

Alison and Tracy Rowe, the NTES Training Officer, acted as chief safety officers as the crews gathered information and the first team entered the disaster area.

It was not long before the word came back that there were injured people needing assistance.

The exercise moved from search to rescue.

Two back-up teams then went in armed with first aid kits and stretchers.

“The advantage of a real-time exercise is it gives the volunteers experience in utilising the skills they have gained in a controlled environment. The more senior members also use the opportunity to brush up on their skills as well.

“We had set up a situation that would require generators for lighting and communications. First aid, stretcher bearers and rope lashing were also called for as the recovery phase went into action.” Alison said.

The ‘victims’ certainly played the part with vigour. The tunnels were not only pitch black but filled with smoke and the yells of the injured that were carried far and wide in the echo chambers of the tunnels.

“They played the part very well.” Alison said with a smile, “But in all seriousness they were drawing from their own experiences and in turn keeping the trainees focused on their tasks.”

The ‘injuries’ were horrific. Burns, open wounds, head injuries and the confirmed death of a 20kg canvas dummy.

All had to be carried from the scene.

The exercise was a success for all involved and especially for the trainees who gained some valuable experience in teamwork and were able to stay calm, make decisions and take charge of a situation.

“In the future when these trainees get called out to the real thing some of what they experienced here tonight will help them cope with whatever they have to face.

“They all did a very good job both in treating the wounded and evacuating them to safety. The command and communication teams also did a great job in keeping everyone informed and accounting for all our personnel into and out of the tunnels.”

The NTES conduct several exercises like this a year and along with unit training weekly, the volunteers get excellent exposure in all aspects of emergency response.

“We encourage all people to apply to join. We need people in Darwin, Palmerston and all rural areas, north and south, to boost our ranks.

“Required skills are not just in the response area, so you don’t have to be strong to join. We need people to help co-ordinate, plan, use communication equipment and even assist with administration during a major incident.” Alison Heath said.

“We can use everyone that has an interest in helping others. Whatever your background or situation we can help find a position for you and train you into a role in the NTES.”

Anyone who is keen or requires further information on joining the NTES is encouraged to call 89223630 or email ntes@nt.gov.au