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15 November, 2020

Fake Cyclone hits the Tablelands

Last week a Category 2 cyclone hit the Tablelands shire but only about a hundred council staff and emergency workers were aware of it.

By Phil Brandel

Sergeant Bill Stanley from QPS, with Cr Bernie Wilce from the TRC and Cheryl-Lee Fitzgerald from QFES at last week’s Emergency Disaster Management Exercise in Atherton.

Last week a Category 2 cyclone hit the Tablelands shire but only about a hundred council staff and emergency workers were aware of it.

The fake cyclone was part of the annual Tablelands Regional Council’s (TRC) Emergency Disaster Management Exercise.

The exercise brought together representatives from Queensland Police, Queensland Ambulance, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, The Rural Fire Brigade, SES, The Red Cross, Ergon Energy and staff from the TRC.

The emergency drill was to see how systems, staff and procedures would work during an actual natural disaster.

Working inside the Community Education and Disaster Coordination Centre on Vernon Street over two days were logistic crews, a call centre, emergency response crews as well as communications and technical support staff all being put through their paces just as if a real cyclone had hit the Tablelands.

The fake cyclone was called DIVOC (COVID spelt backwards) and initially made landfall about 8.30am on Tuesday November 11. Other emergency’s on the day included an electrical blackout, localised flooding, a landslide on the Gillies Range and the loss of NBN.

TRC Councillor Bernie Wilce said that they tried to make trial was a realistic as possible including a fake emergency evacuation centre with COVID cases.

“The whole operation will run over two days, the first day was a response to the cyclone and the second day was concentrating on recovery,” he said.

“It’s like being a well-oiled football team, we want to make sure that everybody is on the same team, that the equipment that we are using is up to speed and to iron out any small issues in the systems.”

Cr Wilce said the emergency was a cyclone with cases of COVID with a few other curveballs thrown as a surprise to staff.

“We had an evacuation centre with COVID cases so we had to organise testing and quarantine,” he said.

“We have 120 people involved including fake evacuees; people ringing to ask questions and fake social media accounts and websites.”

To make the exercise more realistic there were cyclone tracking maps, realistic weather briefings and people calling the hotline seeking more information on the disaster in their part of the Tablelands.

Some of the other issues that the team had to face included the closing of the Kennedy Highway at Tolga, schools being closed, trees blocking roads and computer server failures.

Cr Wilce said “It’s excellent timing ahead of the upcoming cyclone season and the amount of interest from the external agencies was really strong and it’s been great to watch everybody working together.”

Sergeant Bill Stanley from QPS, with Cr Bernie Wilce from the TRC and Cheryl-Lee Fitzgerald from QFES at last week’s Emergency Disaster Management Exercise in Atherton.

 


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