Geraldton’s emergency services were put to the test on Saturday 14 June when the Airport Emergency Procedure Plan was tested. The emergency exercise scenario involved a crash landing at Geraldton Regional Airport.
At 9am the aircraft called in a ‘Mayday’ with engine failure shortly after take-off, requesting to make a forced landing at Geraldton Airport as soon as possible. At 9.45am, the aircraft crash landed and slid off the runway onto a grassed area and caught fire. There were 46 passengers and some deceased.
Emergency response units including the Geraldton Police operating as the Hazard Management Agency were quickly on the scene and set up an incident command post for all emergency services liaison.
Exercise ‘Q400’ was a simulated exercise designed to test the State Air Crash Emergency Management Plan to maintain Emergency Response Accreditation for the airport under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations.
It was a full field exercise conducted on location at the Geraldton Regional Airport to appraise the Geraldton Airport Emergency Response Plan and evaluate responses from all emergency services and their resources and capabilities. It was also to examine the Incident Command Structure, appraise the Department of Child Protection’s Victim Registration practices and test triggers in the City of Greater Geraldton’s Local Emergency Management Arrangements (LEMA); that will lead to the development of an Incident Support Group.
Airport Manager and exercise director, Bob Urquhart, said the exercise was invaluable in bringing all agencies together to test their abilities.
“It was a great way to get all the agencies together not only to test their resources but to identify potential problems – and possible solutions – in the event of a real aircraft crash at the airport,” he said.
“At the end of the exercise we held a hot debrief that allowed all agencies to raise any difficulties they had experienced that could be potential issues in a real life situation.”
Volunteer air crash victims were drama students from Strathalbyn Christian College and had stage make up and realistic prosthetic injuries, including gashed legs and arms and one victim ‘suffered’ a very bad stomach injury! City staff posed as media representatives to add to the woes and test the mettle of the Police command post.
Agencies involved in the exercise included; the District Emergency Management Committee, WA Police Service, Geraldton Airport, DFES Fire and Rescue, State Emergency Service, Local Bush Fire Brigades, Geraldton Regional Hospital, St John Ambulance, Department of Child Protection, Australian Red Cross, Community Volunteers, Bureau of Meteorology and City of Greater Geraldton Community Law and Safety Department. Each agency had an umpire to assess their handling of the situation.
Mayor and Chair of the Local Emergency Management Committee Ian Carpenter commended all agencies and volunteers for their commitment to the community. “Emergency Responders and volunteers often work so hard with little recognition. These people are passionate about protecting our community and their participation in this exercise is testament to this. On behalf of the City I thank them for their commitment,” he said.