Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Broads Authority joins ambulance and coastguard agencies in Operation Dragonfly major incident exercise

Staff and volunteers test major incident readiness during Operation Dragonfly
Last weekend around 60 St John Ambulance, HM Coastguard and Broads Authority staff, volunteers and observers successfully tested their preparedness for a major incident on the Broads and coast during a complex exercise.

HM Coastguard's Lowestoft, Gorleston and Winterton teams and St John Ambulance's Lowestoft unit joined the Broads Authority on Saturday 5 July for Operation Dragonfly at Goodchild Marine in Burgh Castle.

The carefully planned scenario, which lasted the entire morning, involved two boats which had collided after the captain of the larger one, a pleasure craft, had suffered a stroke.

With many role-play casualties on board the boats, on land and in the water, the three organisations had the complex task of assessing the incident, prioritising injuries and extracting all casualties from the area.

As with all exercises of this type, casualties were given realistic injuries by an experienced make-up artist and were briefed on how to act when the rescue teams arrived, ranging from being very subdued to extremely vocal and distressed.

One casualty was a wheelchair user on the top deck of the larger craft and several others were immobilised by major fractures and broken limbs, needing stretcher evacuation.

After the teams started leading and stretchering the injured away, the scenario planners had included some extra surprises including a panic attack from one casualty as she had to be taken to dry land on another boat, and an angina attack from a second woman as she arrived on land where ambulances were waiting.

The inclusion of water and boats in the exercise added another element of difficulty, as did a sudden and very violent downpour later in the morning.
Pip Noon, Deputy Head of Ranger Services at the Broads Authority, said: "This has been a brilliant opportunity for the three agencies to work together with multiple role-played casualties in a waterside setting.

"The exercise has taught all three groups how to work closely and communicate effectively in these situations. Training needs to be ongoing for staff and volunteers and I particularly appreciate the input of our volunteers and commitment to taking part today. This is certainly an exercise we would like to repeat."

Peter Byatt, HM Coastguard Station Officer at Lowestoft, added: "This was an excellent opportunity to be able to work alongside other emergency services organisations and practise our skills.

"To be put in a position where we had to assess multiple casualties and ensure that the appropriate resources were put in place to treat them was invaluable. It was a very well organised exercise which we hope to repeat on a yearly basis."

Tony Curd, St John Ambulance's District Manager with responsibility for Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, said: "While we all hope never to have to deal with situations of such complexity and severity, it is vital that we and our partner agencies ensure that our volunteers are operating at the highest levels of proficiency to bring incidents of this sort to a successful conclusion.

"The meticulous planning that went into the exercise from all three organisations has meant that we have had a superb scenario to deal with today, with many unexpected twists, and I'm pleased that our first aiders showed that they truly possess the skills to be the difference between life and death. We're very much looking forward to collaborating with HM Coastguard and The Broads Authority on similar exercises in future."

All three organisations gave their thanks to the volunteers, staff and observers who attended the exercise, as well as Goodchild Marine for use of their facilities.

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