Lessons learnt from airport drill ‘no duff’ injury

Glenn Cordingley and Jakeb WaddellBroome Advertiser

An accident during an emergency training exercise at Broome International Airport taught some valuable lessons to a string of agencies involved in the operation.

The makeshift scenario unfolded last Saturday afternoon when a helicopter crashed onto the tarmac, sending debris flying into a nearby jet full of passengers.

The result was chaos. Bodies — in the form of stuffed dummies — littered the runway outskirts as a growing number of emergency services headed down and across the main runway to the crash scene.

Two buses parked in front of each other mimicked the aircraft, while an unused car — complete with rotor blades — played the part of the crashed Sikorsky S-92 model. But before the pretend pandemonium even began, the drama was about to unfold into what is known as a “no duff” or an actual emergency, in airport code.

Signalling the start of the drill, a BIA safety officer spun the rotor blades above the car and knelt down to roll a flare underneath the vehicle.

While getting back on his feet, the spinning rotor blade whacked him on the head and sent him crashing to the ground. The no-duff call was suddenly broadcast across the busy two-way radio network being used by the participating emergency services and the result was not pretty.

Amid the wreckage sat the injured man with a gash to his head that required a trip to Broome Hospital for a dozen or so stitches.

The accident highlighted the need for co-ordination and agencies sticking to their tasks, as several people diverted their attention to the accident instead of sticking to their duties.

The live exercise, required to be run every two years, aimed to prepare and train emergency service agencies, supporting organisations and airport staff to deal with aviation emergencies.

BIA chief executive Paul McSweeney praised the work carried out by his staff and all involved and said the day was a success.

“It was pleasing to see excellent co-operation and teamwork between all involved,” he said.

“The exercise was a good chance to test how different emergency response organisations interact with each other and, at the same time, to individually test each organisation’s procedures.

“It is better to be over-prepared and nothing happen than under-prepared if something goes wrong.”

While the exercise ran smoothly, the debrief highlighted several areas of improvement in procedures.

Mr McSweeney said this was a normal outcome for these types of exercises.

Pick up your copy of today’s Broome Advertiser for a full spread of photos.

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