Crash scenario highlights role of media

AUDREY MALONE
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

Timaru emergency services tested their skills as they responded to a call-out to the Timaru Airport after reports of a plane crash as part of a Civil Defence simulation to look at how a real-life emergency is dealt with.

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There might have been flames, emergency vehicles and sounds of people in pain coming from the Richard Pearse Airport - but there was no need for concern.

An emergency exercise run by the Timaru District Council (TDC) at the airport on Wednesday night involved the Fire Service, Police, Victim Support, St John, Salvation Army, Civil Defence and media.

The exercise must be held every other year to maintain the airport's certification.

A bus played the part of a crashed plane full of passengers.

"Family" members were waiting inside the airport terminal. Students from Craighead Diocesan and Timaru Boys High, along with members of the public fulfilled the roles of victims and family members.

TDC emergency management coordinator Lamorna Cooper, who over-saw the exercise, said she was very happy with how the evening had gone, with over 100 volunteers on site.

She said the main "issue" was a family member managing to make their way from the airport to the crash site, and a couple of small issues surrounding time constraints of the exercise.

Temuka Police senior constable Jane-Anne McIlraith said it was good training to take part in the event.

"I had one man acting agitated, being verbal, like he was in shock. It was brilliant training," Mrs McIlraith said.

She said it was also interesting to deal with the media, who were part of the training exercise.

In this day of social media, it was important to get the facts out quickly so that false information did not chaos, she said.

"There is a tension there, as we are at any scene in the first instance for the family. So we don't necessarily have time to talk, and don't want to say anything until we have the right facts. But we know we need to get the information out there quickly," she said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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