Faux fire tests disaster response under COVID-19 conditions

1 September, 2020
Author: Charles Hodgson

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L-R Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Inspector Andrew Bailey, Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson and Sunshine Coast Police Superintendent Craig Hawkins.

Testing and refining emergency responses with COVID-19 restrictions in place was the focus of today’s simulated disaster event, coordinated by Sunshine Coast Council.

Exercise PANDANUM was attended by approximately 150 participants, including representatives from council, all local emergency services, key government and non-government departments, local education institutes, social support agencies, energy and water service providers and tourism organisations. 

The exercise topic was based on the September 2019 Peregian fire ember storm and challenged participants to respond to a fire emergency threatening an aged care facility with level three COVID-19 restrictions in place. 

Sunshine Coast Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) Chair Mayor Mark Jamieson said the exercise saw the LDMG come together and establish the Local Disaster Coordination Centre (LDCC), just like they would in a real disaster.

“COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of life as we know it, including how we prepare and respond to disasters,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“Our LDMG has excellent plans in place and we coordinate our annual exercise in line with state disaster legislation, and to ensure we maintain a response and recovery capability for our community.

“Today’s exercise was about providing our teams with the opportunity to assess and improve their responses and skills.

“Exercise PANDANUM was carried out with all personnel adhering to strict social distancing measures and many participants were involved virtually.

“As Sunshine Coast residents know all too well, disasters can happen anytime and anywhere and we take this exercise just as seriously as we would an actual disaster.” 

Mayor Jamieson said this year’s scenario focused on the aged care sector and ensuring residents could be provided with continuity of care throughout a disaster.

“The Sunshine Coast is home to many aged care and retiree communities and it’s vital we have the right strategies in place to support both residents and aged care providers.”

He said the training exercise and upcoming Get Ready Week campaign (October 12-18) were timely reminders for residents to be prepared for disaster events, whether they were man-made or natural disasters.

“There are three simple steps to ensuring your household or business is prepared for extreme weather events.

“Step one is to have an emergency plan in place, step two is to pack supplies – pack your emergency and evacuation kits and step three is to make sure your insurance is up-to-date.

“Visit council’s Disaster Hub website for all the information you need to prepare your homes and businesses and stay up to date with important information such as road closures, evacuation centres and weather warnings.”

Mayor Jamieson urged the community to continue complying with public health directions and avoid becoming COVID-19 complacent.

“Please remember these basics – stay 1.5 metres away from other people, wash your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitiser and ensure you sneeze or cough into your arm or tissue and put the tissue in the bin.

“If you are unwell, stay home and be sure to get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or fatigue.”

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, call your doctor or 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and get tested. Call emergency services on Triple Zero (000) if you are very sick.

Visit Queensland Health’s website to find your nearest testing centre, further information about restrictions on gatherings and for a list of locations linked to confirmed cases in Queensland.