Emergency teams deal with hurricanes, oil leaks and a refugee crisis in the world’s largest disaster simulation exercise

How do you prepare to face major disasters, including hurricanes, major oil leaks and a refugee crisis?

SIMEX comprises a mix of live, simulation and command and control events.

Those on the frontline, including international emergency response, will be taking part in the world’s largest annual international disaster simulation exercise, run by the University of Portsmouth, Hampshire Fire and Rescue, RedR and L2S2 from 15 to 17 May.

This year’s disaster simulation is based around a major storm/hurricane that brings heavy winds, rains and storm surge resulting in coastal and inland flooding, environmental pollution, major infrastructure damage and displacement of people.

Scenarios include an oil tanker breaking loose from its mooring and crashing into a refinery causing a major oil spill, the rescue of 100 casualties from Solent Water, the rescue of dozens of children from a collapsed school and an influx of refugees fleeing from the storm.

The annual SIMEX Series exercise, which started in 2012, comprises a mix of live, simulation and command and control events in order to test both national and international emergency response mechanisms. It is also designed to provide a learning environment for participants to test disaster event response plans, policies and procedures.

This year’s exercise will take place across 18 sites in Hampshire and involve more than 3,000 people (including over 900 role players) and 64 local, national and international emergency response organisations, including:

  • the United Nations (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)
  • the Department for International Development (DFID)
  • the Police Casualty Bureau
  • the British Red Cross
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency

The event is co-directed by Naomi Morris, a Lecturer in Humanitarian Emergency Response and Recovery, and secretariat to the Simulations and Training Network of the United Nations.

SIMEX is designed to provide a learning environment for participants to test disaster event response plans, policies and procedures.

Naomi said: “The SIMEX Series is a great exercise to be a part of encompassing enthusiasm and skill from primary schools, to Universities to Government organsiations. Improving consistency among institutional training of humanitarian and emergency response personnel can lead to improved interoperability among responders, in turn significantly improving the efficiency of coordination and our overall response for all.”

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Specialist Technical Rescue Team Section Leader Phil Crook said: “Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is among the best in the country and we are regularly called upon to help in the aftermath of international disasters.

“Exercises like this are vital in developing and maintaining our skills and getting valuable experience working alongside our partners.

“This kind of scenario gives you a level of realism you can’t recreate on the drill yard or classroom – they help us keep people safe.”

Katie Robertson, Director of Enterprise Programmes at RedR UK: “RedR UK is proud to be a lead agency for SimEx Series 2018, coordinating the involvement of the INGO community.  With over 38 years’ experience of supporting the humanitarian community, we will be drawing on our experience of capacity building and simulation methodologies for learning to support the participating organisations to meet their objectives at SimEx.”

The exercise will include volunteers from the DFID-funded Emergency Medical Team joining for the first time alongside the International Search and Rescue Team and Map Action.  The Emergency Medical Team was recently deployed to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to save thousands of lives at risk from a rapid and deadly outbreak of diphtheria.

International Development Secretary and Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt said: “This major disaster simulation will show the life-saving work of International Search and Rescue and the Emergency Medical Teams in action. The UK has led the response to some of the world’s biggest recent humanitarian disasters and this exercise will show DFID’s experts working in partnership to make sure our responses to crises around the world are bigger, better and faster to help save more lives. It will also make sure our emergency services are ready and have capacity to respond to events here in the UK.”

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