Serve On International Response Team volunteers Sarah Weller and Abbas Dhanani took part in the Simulex 19 disaster response exercise on Malta with colleagues from EVOLSAR.
“We began on Friday evening with a scenario briefing and team-planning before we were transferred to the headquarters of Malta’s Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) on Saturday morning and the teams were deployed on three different scenarios in two different locations.
Abb and I were in ‘Alpha’ team together with SAR volunteers from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, France and Portugal.
Saturday 10am: Scenario 1 took place on an industrial site in a derelict factory building that is due to be demolished soon. Our first task involved extracting a ‘casualty’ through a tunnel from the basement level. This involved removing lots of debris to get to the casualty before dragging them back to the surface.
The next task saw us doing a dirty breach through a wall halfway up a staircase, into an adjoining room. Once there we had to build a ‘shore’ to prop up the ceiling in order to complete a vertical breach to reach a casualty on the floor above.
4pm Saturday: We were transferred to another site for Scenario 2. Here we were tasked with retrieving several casualties from an underground shaft, approximately 15-20 metres deep.
This involved setting up a tripod and pulley system at ground level and lowering four volunteers, stretchers and ropes down the shaft as the light faded and night fell.
Several hours later, two casualties were brought to the surface after a protracted extraction which was not without its complications and some impromptu problem-solving (the stretcher got wedged diagonally halfway up the shaft on the first extraction).
Saturday 11pm: We returned to EFRU HQ for a couple of hours of rest.
Sunday 3am: We were up and had breakfast before heading back to the industrial site for two more tasks.
The first was the extraction of a casualty from the third floor of the factory building (after four dirty breaches to locate them). That involved lowering the casualty down the ladder using a rope and pulley system.
The final task was more breaking and breaching through more walls of different materials to retrieve another casualty.
At the end of the exercise, I was interviewed by Malta TV to talk about our experiences of the weekend’s activities and the Evolsar project.
Sunday 10am: We went back to EFRU HQ where we were visited by Michael Farrugia, the Maltese Minister for National Security.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel for some rest before a celebration dinner with the whole team.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend of great training experiences and collaboration with almost 70 volunteers from around Europe.
Huge thanks to Maltese team EFRU for hosting and organising the event again this year.”