Evacuation exercise to test emergency response

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District Emergency Services Officer Great Southern Neville Blackburn ahead of the Albany Welfare Evacuation Centre exercise.
Camera IconDistrict Emergency Services Officer Great Southern Neville Blackburn ahead of the Albany Welfare Evacuation Centre exercise. Credit: Laurie Benson/Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

An evacuation centre will be set up in Albany as the “Bremer Bay fire” threatens lives and homes.

While this fire is luckily make-believe, the lessons learnt from setting up an evacuation centre could come in handy in a real-life emergency.

The evacuation centre is part of a welfare evacuation exercise by the Department of Communities.

It is an opportunity for all participants to experience an emergency situation in a safe environment and prepare for the real thing.

It was less than 18 months ago that an evacuation centre was set up at the Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre during the May 2018 bushfires.

Great Southern district emergency services officer Neville Blackburn said 100 people were evacuated to ALAC during last year’s fires.

“The centre remained open for two days and evacuees received a range of welfare support,” he said. “Lessons are learnt each time we activate a welfare evacuation centre.

“Extensive debriefs with staff are prioritised, identifying what we did well and what can be improved.”

Mr Blackburn said participants would be presented with a range of scenarios.

“Most exercise scenarios have been developed from real situations experienced in welfare evacuation centres over the course of recent emergencies and disasters within WA.

“People presenting to welfare evacuation centres during genuine emergencies can be traumatised by the experience, particularly in cases where they have been separated from family and friends.

“This can pose unique challenges for the staff working in centres, meaning the opportunity to practice their response is invaluable.”

The exercise, which will involve Department of Communities staff, support agency personnel and volunteers, is set for 9.30am on Tuesday.

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