Preparing rescuers for actual disasters

Emergency services personnel provide medical care to an F/A-18F pilot as part of Exercise Green Grass on-base

At any given time, RAAF Base Amberley could encounter natural or man-made catastrophes, ranging from vehicle accidents and plane crashes to intruders or bushfires, so preparation and planning for such life-threatening events is critical.

Commanding Officer of No 23 Squadron, Wing Commander James Simpson, who is in charge of the Emergency Operations Centre, says interoperability between Air Force and local Emergency Services is critical to successful outcomes in these situations. It’s the reason the Command Support Group regularly test the effectiveness of the Airfield Emergency Plan (AEP).

While an on-base emergency is a scenario WGCDR Simpson hopes he never encounters, he knows that personnel and emergency services need to be more than prepared should that occur.

Exercise Green Grass brought together personnel from the Command Support Group as well as civilian Emergency Service workers to respond to a simulated aircraft crash.

The simulation involved F/A-18F aircrew, a fuel spill, fire, civilian casualty, media injects and distressed relatives.

“The scenario itself was an aircraft on return to base with a problem and crashed on landing,” WGCDR Simpson said.

“During the crash, part of the wreckage struck one of the contractors who was doing crash prepping.”

“So we have military casualties but we also have one of the contractors on base injured as well. It gave us two sides to actually consider when responding and reporting and looking at who is responsible for what.”

During this exercise, and in case of a real emergency, the command post accommodates representatives from the on-base fire, medical and security forces along with Police Service and civilian Emergency Services personnel.

Air Base Command Post personnel come from various backgrounds and trades and maintain readiness for whatever response is required.

Working closely with Queensland Police, Ambulance and Fire and Rescue was an integral part of the Exercise.

“These exercises actually allow us to practise the interoperability [between RAAF and Emergency Services] and allows us to actually learn best practice from these other services, especially because they are responding to this type of incident on a more frequent basis,” he said.

Exercises such as Green Grass are ran frequently at RAAF Amberley to test the effectiveness of the AEP.

Australian company Avisure were also on site to observe and assess the success of their current AEP, and will provide a detailed report on how the Base can improve their response to Airfield Emergencies.

For now, one of the biggest challenges WGCDR Simpson anticipates is a natural disaster.
“In the past, we’ve responded to floods and this time of year we’re always very aware and on the watch for bushfires,” he said.