Four people were dead after a suspected hazardous material spill, 15 people were suffering severe symptoms from the exposure and 150 people suffered to a lesser degree.
That was the scenario firefighters worked through at a desktop exercise investigating how brigades respond and combat an incident involving hazardous materials at large events.
In the scenario, firefighters are paged to a reported gas leak at the race track. On arrival, crew leaders discover the incident is more complex than the original pager message.
The crowd of about 12,000 is panicked.
About 1200 people have been evacuated to an assembly area trackside. About 500 people have self evacuated and left the racecourse all together. A large contingency of media is also present.
Leading firefighter James Wong said the exercise was another opportunity to highlight the importance of interagency interoperability.
“It also highlighted the importance of good communication between people involved. It must occur at the local level, at the Incident Management Team level and all the way to the Emergency Management Team level. For a successful outcome at any incident, whether it’s big or small, it must be include the event management level too,” he said.
“Timely, accurate and relevant public information is so important at a large scale incident. Even more so now in the current era of social media and online reporting, especially with public online posts occurring instantly and without any control or intervention by emergency services.”
The theoretical exercise also showed the need to encourage brigades to test and review incident and emergency management wherever possible, especially at a local level.
“This can include arranging local training amongst brigades, groups, districts, as well as with other relevant agencies,” LFF Wong said.
“For example, things can become a lot more complicated when there’s a need for emergency triage in "hot zones" to treat members of the public. This is an area to consider, especially if Ambulance Victoria is not on scene or equipped with appropriate personal protection. However, thinking about these issues early is what can assist us if we face this scenario in the future.
“We need to understand our own capabilities and the expectations from other emergency services. It will help all agencies gain more knowledge on how best we can work together and perform emergency management.”
The desktop exercise in Yarra Glen was a precursor to a practical even scheduled at the same location on for 3 June where CFA will focus on public decontamination response.