HMAS Albatross regularly conducts crash exercises around a range of emergency scenarios.
Known as a ‘crashex’, the scenarios are designed to ensure the ship’s company is ready to handle real incidents when they occur without notice.
The most recent crashex simulated the crash of a helicopter in bushland approximately 5km to the west of the airfield.
In the scenario, personnel were involved in rescuing a trapped crew member from a downed aircraft, transporting them by medivac helicopter and treating other crew members for a range of injuries.
Approximately 50 personnel from across Albatross participated in the exercise, including Search and Rescue contractors OPSTAR and CHC Helicopters, who conducted initial crash and medical response, and Search and Rescue helicopter medivac.
Other Albatross response agencies included the Airfield Firefighting and Rescue Service contractor Broadspectrum, and staff from Albatross Health Centre who support airfield emergency response.
Commander Air HMAS Albatross, Commander Rick Neville, has the demanding role during crashexes of overseeing the Albatross Airfield Control Centre and ensuring coordination of the emergency response.
“There are always challenges when coordinating a crashex with so many interrelated agencies with response obligations,” Commander Neville said.
“We had an array of military, Australian Public Service, Defence contractors, civilian emergency response agencies; and other departments not directly involved also have a part to play depending on the circumstances.
“These include Imagery Specialists, Chaplain, Command Warrant Officer, and the access control guard on the main gate.
“We also have to maintain a safe flying environment at Albatross during the exercise,” he said.
Commander Neville said Albatross conducted a crashex every six months.
“The emergency is usually located in a remote bushland location, in difficult terrain, with injuries requiring patient stabilisation and helicopter evacuation.
“With other factors including poor weather, simulated fire and hazardous material, the exercise is demanding upon equipment and personnel, and success is dependent upon good leadership, team work, and professionalism,” Commander Neville said.
Although points for improvement were identified, the exercise was considered a success.
“It demonstrated best practice from the contractors, and effective support from others involved,” Commander Neville said.
Best practise is measured against the Australian Inter-service Emergency Management System, which is used by services such as New South Wales Ambulance and New South Wales Fire and Rescue.
Air Commander Neville said the standard ensured coordination between services to achieve common objectives at the emergency site.
“The measurement of the skill and readiness of the airfield emergency response services is dependent upon exercises like this, and the preparation and ongoing training of all personnel involved.
“We’re looking at the interagency response to achieve detection, location, access and extrication of patients, and what made this exercise successful was the timely response to the aircraft accident site and the coordination between Navy and defence industry contractors,” he said.