Emergency crews pass test

2016-07-20 12:55
Andrea Pillay from Nathoo Mbenyane Engineers oversees the surprise accident simulation exercise.

Andrea Pillay from Nathoo Mbenyane Engineers oversees the surprise accident simulation exercise. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - A wrecked car, a few actors covered in fake blood and a single call to the emergency hotline.

That is all it took to put Pietermaritzburg’s emergency services and authorities through their paces yesterday during a surprise crisis simulation exercise near the Natal Canoe Club at Camps Drift.

The results were mostly positive, with all emergency services responding to the distress call almost immediately.

However, those evaluating the response of the emergency services felt more could be done in terms of communicating the details of an incident across the board, in ensuring a scene is dealt with holistically.

These were the sentiments from a panel of judges who assessed police units, paramedics, firefighters, tow truck services and traffic officials during a crash simulation yesterday.

Speaking to The Witness after a lengthy discussion with all who attended the simulation, Andrea Pillay from Nathoo Mbenyane Engineers — the company contracted by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) to set up and oversee the simulation — explained how the test was carried out.

Pillay said their team started early yesterday morning by towing a wrecked Mercedes to the banks of the Duzi River.

“Injured” passengers were then covered in a red paint-like substance that resembled blood and the judges took their spectator positions before a distress call was logged to 10111 at exactly 10 am.

In the call, Pillay said the location of the crash was reported and authorities were told the car was on fire.

Emergency services arrived within minutes to find that it was only a simulation, but they had to treat it as a real life incident as the judges jotted down their notes.

The Witness, which got a tipoff that a car was on fire with multiple people trapped inside, arrived at the simulation to find firefighters inspecting the wreckage, paramedics “treating” the vehicle occupants and police divers in the river “searching” for more patients.

After the simulation, all role players were briefed on the results.

The judging panel, made up of representatives from the Natal Towing Association (NTA), the traffic department, the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI), the police’s accident unit and the Msunduzi municipality, concluded that the emergency services responded effectively, but communication between different units was lacking.

The municipality’s Grant Fryer said the simulations are held randomly twice a year to openly critique problems and improve services and responses to incidents. Fryer said after the distress call was made, communications over police radios were monitored and response times were judged.

The NTA’s Hagar Nyackaal said two tow trucks were the first to respond, getting to the accident 10 minutes after the call. Nyackaal said one of the drivers had obstructed the accident scene with his bakkie but stayed out of the way when emergency paramedics arrived.

The panel said they would “look into” how the tow truck companies arrived even before emergency services.

The police and paramedics were then criticised for not informing the Central Control Centre (CCC) or the traffic department about the accident.

The judges appealed to all role players to maintain constant communication with the CCC and with each other in efforts to ensure a scene is dealt with properly.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  emergency services

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