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Emergency teams respond to mock plane crash

The limits and resources of the region’s emergency teams were fully tested during a mock disaster at Wimmera Health Care Group recently.

The Department of Health and Human Services emergency management team planned the Emergo-Train disaster exercise with WHCG OH&S manager Matt Mellington. DHHS senior learning and development officer Kieran Colgan coordinated the exercise.

Mr Mellington said the exercise was formulated to see how all departments would respond in a major disaster.

“We also provided dedicated phone numbers to the mock stations to prevent any confusion with real emergencies,” Mr Mellington said.

“Code announcements over the PA were pre-empted with the term ‘exercise only’.”

The scenario for the mock disaster was a commercial plane travelling toward the Grampians and forced to make an emergency landing after engine trouble. The plane landed in a paddock 10 minutes from Horsham but collected a tree stump soon after touching down.

Of the 52 passengers and crew on board, six were killed instantly. Ambulance Victoria rushed to the scene followed by Country Fire Authority and Victoria Police.

Ambulance officers and paramedics provided assessments and triage on location then the 47 patients were transferred to Wimmera Base Hospital in an order determined by the triage assessments. The fate of those patients was then in the hands of the WHCG emergency team.

The mock disaster was played out onsite at the hospital, using display boards and figure magnets in simulation stations which were set up in various meeting rooms. Mr Mellington said this was done to ensure there was no added impact to the hospital’s daily activity.

WHCG CEO Catherine Morley said the exercise had proved invaluable.

“There were around 60 people involved in the event including the emergency crews and several observers from neighbouring health services,” Ms Morley said.

“I’m very pleased with the response from our team and how everyone got behind the significance of the event,” she said.

“It really provided an insight into how we deal with a major disaster, the vital role that each department plays and how precise the communication must be.

“We were able to gain some important lessons and it will help us to be prepared should a disaster occur.”

DHHS principal advisor for health and emergency management Miranda Adams was among several observers at the event.

Ms Adams was also acting as western regional health coordinator and said she was impressed with the response by all.

“This is a relatively new role for me but it went really well and I learnt a lot,” Ms Adams said.

“It was consolidating some of the things that have happened in previous situations,” she said.

“It’s amazing how people in these emergency roles react and pull out all stops.

“All the good comes out in people.”


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