A simulation involving a car accident and several casualties and an oil spill took place earlier today at the Boom Bridge. The simulation was the implementation of Phase 3 of Exercise Tropical Alliance, and it aimed to prepare first responders in the event of a catastrophic emergency. Reporter Courtney Menzies was at the scene. Here is her report.
The Department of the Environment in collaboration with the British Army Training Support Unit Belize designed and executed a simulation to test the skills of the first responders from different departments in Belize such as the Belize Emergency Response Team, the Belize Police Department and the Belize Defense Force. Major Alan Grant, the training safety officer at BATSUB told us what the simulation was all about.
Major Alan Grant, Training Safety Officer, BATSUB: “The simulation today is a culmination of several months of build-up. We started with desktop excercises then we went on to our show and tell capability excercise where everybody brought their assets together. The simulation started with a pretend drunk driver. He came forward and he collided with the BNE oil truck making the oil truck go out of control, knock people over the Burrell Boom bridge and into the water. At the same time there was then vehicles coming towards the truck and tried to avoid it and we ended up with several cars on top of a mass car pileup and creating something like twenty casualties because we had a busload of American tourists played by the US Marines as we have some BATSUB staff played some of the soldiers and by the locally employed civilians. The purpose primarily is to save life and to save the environment because one thing I forgot to mention is that with the truck crashing that then created a fake oil spill and we had water leaking out of it to simulate oil going into the Belize River and as we were speaking right now BNE, supported by the BDF boat trip are trying to mop up and absorb the oil as well as rescue any people that are lying in the water.”
The National Fire Service, one of the departments involved, spoke to us about their particular role in the simulation.
Cadet Morris, Belize Fire Service: “We got a call of a vehicle accident and a whole lot of stuff including an oil spill. The Fire Department we responded from Ladyville as primary response and when we came in, fortunately, there wasn’t any fire that we could have actually attended to so our primary role then had to focus on casualty extrication from a bunch of impacted vehicles that were on the scene; we primarily assisted BERT with triage. Basically, we were just the bunch of go-to guys on the scene here today and I believe that with the manpower that we had out here we were able to be a tremendous impact on the exercise today. Looking at the evaluation sheet in terms of what is expected of us in a situation like this on the one to ten ratings I would definitely have to rate my guys at an 8. Our goal was to assess our personnel to ensure that we can effectively work in unison with other agencies in a mass casualty situation like this. That goal was met, our objective was to make sure that in the event our human resources are needed that was met also and in conclusion we have rescue tools that we can utilize in a road traffic accident.”
The Belize Natural Energy, the National Emergency Management Organization and Astrum Helicopters were also participants in this simulation. According to Major Grant, around 80 to 100 people were involved. Environmental Officer from the DOE, Jorge Franco was responsible for the evaluations of the different entities.
Jorge Franco, Environmental Officer, Department of Environment: “The DOE focused primarily in regards to addressing the issue with the oil spill and oil spill response, we worked closely with BNE, we feel from the simulation there was timely information relayed. The important people, the relevant people were informed in time, we had the participation of the Special Boat Unit from the BDF. Considering that the simulation exercise relates to an oil spill in a water body we feel that the timely response and the feedback given and the experience from the BNE personnel and the BDF assisted us and if we look back at our time charts and time of events we are very much satisfied with the timely response and the activities that have been undertaken in the river. For example, the booms were deployed, the officers on site were able to use the weather to determine the direction of flow and where to deploy their booms, where to establish the decontamination sites and so all those facilities have been established and we feel that it was done in a timely manner. One of the areas that we feel can be improved upon is in regard to the amount of personnel on-site. We feel for example in regard to securing and containing the leak itself, we feel that there needs to be a little bit more training in regards to first responders on site.”