Emer­gency en­act­ment puts air­port to the test

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

IT’S been pour­ing with rain for days. Visibility is low, the ground is wet and there’s a kan­ga­roo on the run­way.

The Jet­star A320 land­ing at Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port swerves as the pi­lot makes an in­vol­un­tary de­ci­sion to try to avoid the mar­su­pial. He loses con­trol and the plane skids off the run­way.

A wing breaks off and the flam­ing plane comes to rest in a wa­ter­logged pad­dock on the air­field. There are ca­su­al­ties ev­ery­where and at least one per­son is dead.

What hap­pens next could be any­one’s guess or it could be part of an or­gan­ised re­sponse – and that’s what was en­acted last week.

Ex­er­cise Kan­ga­roo Haz­ard Ex­ists took place at Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port on Fri­day and was part of a bi­en­nial fullscale emer­gency re­sponse in­volv­ing the de­ploy­ment of emer­gency ser­vices, equip­ment and re­sources.

A Whit­sun­day Tran­sit bus stood in for the crashed A320 and its in­jured pas­sen­gers were lo­cal air force cadets. Emer­gency ser­vices ar­rived in real time, with po­lice tak­ing about five min­utes to be first on the scene, closely fol­lowed by fire ser­vices and fi­nally the paramedics.

All the emer­gency per­son­nel agreed the ex­er­cise went well, but equally all could see the chal­lenges they’d face if such a large-scale dis­as­ter was to re­ally oc­cur.

Proser­pine Fire Sta­tion cap­tain Mike Sun­der­land said for an aux­il­iary sta­tion based 10–15 min­utes away, a sit­u­a­tion like this would be a real test, re­quir­ing re­sources “from far and wide”.

Proser­pine of­fi­cer-in­charge Act­ing Sergeant Mark Flynn said po­lice would need to draw on re­sources from Proser­pine, Whit­sun­day and Mackay.

Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port op­er­a­tions manager Tony Schulz said this was prob­a­bly the largest scale ex­er­cise in seven years, de­signed to eval- uate the air­port’s emer­gency plan and help re­view the pro­ce­dures in place.

He was as­sisted in this eval­u­a­tion by aero­drome op­er­a­tions sup­port direc­tor An­drew Ste­wart and Mackay Air­port manager of avi­a­tion op­er­a­tions Phil Clark, both of whom were full of praise for ev­ery­one in­volved.

Mr Ste­wart said most im­pres­sive was the high level of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween all re­sponse units, right through to the bag­gage han­dling staff.

IN RE­COV­ERY: Mem­bers of the Proser­pine and Ab­bot Point Ru­ral Fire Brigades as­sisted in the re­cov­ery of "in­jured" ac­tors at last week's air­port emer­gency ex­er­cise. DIS­AS­TER STRIKES: Air Force Cadet Adam Edgar pre­tends to be walk­ing away from the scene of a re-en­acted A320 air­craft crash at the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port last week.

Pho­tos: Sharon Small­wood

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