First responders tackle fires, oil spill during exercise Pacific Partnership

Participants of this year’s multinational exercise Pacific Partnership had an opportunity to respond to a simulated collision of a cruise ship and a tanker during an emergency response drill.

Conducted in Da Nang, Vietnam, as part of the exercise, the activity was led by the Vietnam People’s Armed Forces and local emergency services, with visiting personnel from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan in support roles.

Royal Australian Navy Nursing Officer Lieutenant Angela French worked alongside Vietnamese doctors and nurses to triage role-playing patients, who were retrieved from the water and brought ashore by the Vietnam Border Guard and the United States Marine Corps.

“Given the oil spill scenario, we were looking for inhalation problems because there was immersion involved and it is not a good thing to have oil contaminants in your lungs,” Lieutenant French said.

“So we were primarily taking care of the patients’ airways and breathing.

“I was really surprised at just how well we were able to work together despite the language barrier.”

Lieutenant French said hand signals were the primary means of communication.

“I let the doctor take the lead and he showed me what he wanted me to do,” she said.

“The result was that we were able to really work together as a team even though we couldn’t understand a word of each other’s language.

United States Marine Corps officer Major Charlie Hunt was one of the key planners for the involvement of the multinational group in the emergency response scenario.

He said he was pleased with the interoperability demonstrated.

“We prepare when there is not an emergency so that we are able to respond better and operate better together when there is an emergency,” Major Hunt said.

Da Nang is the second last port visit of exercise Pacific Partnership, which will be concluded in the Vietnamese city of Nha Trang at the end of May. Port visits have also been conducted in Malaysia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and aims to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made and natural disasters.

Australia has been involved in all iterations since it was first started more than 12 years ago after the multinational international response to the 2004 tsunami event in Banda Aceh.

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