A new Ryman Healthcare retirement village in Christchurch proved to be the perfect setting for a Civil Defence emergency training exercise to help the victims of a damaging earthquake.
New buildings at the Kevin Hickman village site were used in the Friday night practice event that saw members of the Christchurch Civil Defence team join with some Rymanians for the simulation and workout.
Chris Caselton, Senior Cost Analyst at Ryman, says as a member of Civil Defence Emergency Management Canterbury, he floated the idea of holding the mock-up. He took on the role of controller, overseeing the training exercise.
“We had a team leaders meeting, three or four months ago, and we were struggling to identify venues where we could go off our base site to go and train in live circumstances,” Chris says.
“Basically I said I’d go and talk to the guys at work, and see if we can use one of our sites.”
Kevin Hickman Project Manager Andrew Inch says the opportunity to help Civil Defence was welcomed, particularly given Christchurch’s history with significant emergency events. The Canterbury earthquake sequence of 2010-11, in which 185 people died, still sits heavy on the people of Christchurch and surrounds.
“Any opportunity where we can support these amazing volunteers who help so many people, we think is worth doing,” Andrew says.
Chris (Deputy Team Leader with Civil Defence Response Team 11) says a great deal of planning went into figuring out what sort of exercise would work, and making the most of still to be occupied buildings at Kevin Hickman as the basis for the rescue.
The exercise, which included the extraction of 17 casualties of the quake, started at 6.30pm and ran through to the early hours of Saturday morning with the rescues completed with headlamps and torches. The scenario was based on a magnitude 7-plus earthquake rupturing along South Island’s Alpine Fault.
The Civil Defence team set up an incident control point (ICP), near the construction headquarters for the Kevin Hickman building team, and then responded to the unexpected quake.
The injured people were extracted from various locations around the village site. Those rescued included those with wounds, crush and limb injuries as well as some walking wounded. “These injuries were the sort of stuff you’d expect to find post-earthquake,” Chris says.
“We started with a rapid triage of the injured – which involves a quick 30-second assessment of the casualties as you find them, to work out what is the nature of their injuries. We have a red, yellow, green assessment criteria… that all got fed back to the ICP, then we sent teams out. We completed the triage, then prioritised those casualties in terms of who we got out first.”
The Civil Defence team’s search included all of a defined site area, meaning it was an extended exercise, he says.
“Given the extensive nature of the site and the complexity of the buildings involved, including basements, the reconnaissance of the site and the triage of casualties was pretty challenging for the team.”
The exercise went very well, all the casualties were found and extracted, with some of those extractions proving to be quite tricky, especially from the basement areas and on upper level scaffolds, Chris says.
The team received great feedback from our volunteer casualties, who were sourced via a Facebook group. One volunteer added feedback: “Great job when getting me out, the team tried one thing, but had to regroup and try an alternative plan. There was great communication between the team.”
Chris says that given Civil Defence is a purely volunteer organisation, the support from Ryman had proved important. He had been able to attend a number of CD deployments in terms of volunteer work. This included spending three days in Ashburton following the May 2021 floods that caused widespread damage to farms and the 90-year-old Ashburton bridge.
He enjoys the regular weekly training with the team and the exercises such as this quake rescue. “To go to a site, and do an extended period of training is really good for us,” Chris says.
“Civil Defence are really appreciative of having had the opportunity to go and do that. I think for Ryman it’s being associated with supporting the fourth emergency service.”