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Academic turns observer for risk management exercise

On the evening of October 17, Dr Simon Bennett, Lecturer in Risk Management at the University's Scarman Centre, attended Operation Tristar, Stansted Airport’s annual disaster exercise. The disaster scenario consisted of an aircraft crashing onto the M11, just short of the airport. The aircraft had been brought down by a bird-strike.  operation tristar

The exercise consisted of extracting 70 passengers, some alive, some injured and some dead, from the burning aircraft (actually a retired Lockheed Tristar sitting on the tarmac north of Stansted’s main runway). 

Dr Bennett’s role was to observe the rescue and provide feedback to Stansted’s operators, the British Airports Authority, and GO Fly and easyJet, whose aircraft had been downed. 

The weather for the exercise was ideal — clear sky, no wind. The exercise commenced at 19:30 with a blast on an air horn. The Airport Fire Service (AFS) arrived within minutes and started to tackle the ‘blaze’. Having evacuated those who were able to walk, the AFS began extracting the injured. 

As an observer Dr Bennett stayed in the aircraft taking photographs and making notes of the extractions. The ‘casualties’, all members of the Casualties' Union, put up a very realistic show. Survivors were taken either to hospital by a fleet of ambulances or to a reception centre established at one of the airport terminals. 

Involved in the exercise were numerous public and private agencies, including the Civil Aviation Authority’s Safety Regulation Group, Essex Fire Brigade, Hertfordshire Fire Brigade, Essex Police, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Womens’ Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) and Essex Ambulance Service. It is fair to say that all who participated did so with utmost commitment.

Operation Tristar

For the duration of the exercise Dr Bennett worked with Dr Peter Orton, a Civil Aviation Authority-registered MD. Dr Orton focused on the extraction and triage (patient processing) dimensions, while Dr Bennett focused on intra-agency co-operation and co-ordination and overall performance in saving life. 

As it was assumed that a GO Fly aircraft had crashed, GO’s Crisis Management Centre (located in an office building at Stansted) was activated. Activities at GO’s CMC were monitored by Professor John Adams of University College London. Professor Adams was especially interested in the working methods of those ensconced in the CMC throughout the night, and in the Press Conference arranged by GO’s Media Team, and led by Captain Ed Winter, GO’s Chief Executive Officer. 

Dr Bennett’s overall impression was of an airline that was well-prepared to handle both the human and business dimensions of crisis. This is good news for passengers and shareholders alike. This is the second major exercise attended by Dr Bennett in 2002, the first being a test of the nation’s ability to resist a chemical and/or biological attack. 

Said Simon Bennett: "Attending such exercise serves a number of objectives. First, one is able to make a practical contribution to pubic safety. Secondly, exercises are a rich source of research material. Thirdly, being seen at such events is an excellent advertisement for the MSc in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management offered by the Scarman Centre".

Simon Bennett
October, 2002

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Last updated: 30 October 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall
Created by: Barbara Whiteman

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