The second evaluation exercise to test the S-HELP Decision Support System (DSS) took place on 25th October, in the National Emergency Coordination Centre, Dublin. Emergency responders from both sides of the Irish border attended the simulated chemical explosion scenario, which demonstrated the capabilities of the tools within the DSS. Participants at the event were introduced to S-HELP by Coordinator Dr Karen Neville (UCC-BIS) who outlined the structure of the project and the evolution of the holistic framework before giving an overview of the agenda for the day. Dr Neville emphasised that the integration of the tools and feedback from the participants as potential end-users of the platform which that was the focus of the exercise.
Dr Peter Daly, Emergency Management Consultant to the HSE continued with this theme, as he explained the process that the 'White Harvest' exercise would follow. Dr Daly advised the participants 'don't fight the scenario', reiterating the point that the simulation only needed to be realistic in the context of testing the tools. The participants were advised that the scenario should be considered as a timeline, or backdrop, and to remain aware that they were not being tested on their individual response. 'White Harvest' consisted of a fictional series of events, each of which had an increasing negative impact on public health. The storyline which was developed by S-HELP partners the HSE and PHA, involved the circulation of a contaminated batch of an illegal street drug - 'Black Angel'- which was causing the hospitalisation and fatalities within the drug user community.
The exercise opened with a news bulletin, in which a newsreader warns the public of the dangers of 'Black Angel' and the recent poisonings and deaths which have resulted from it, which set the scene for the unfolding incident. As the scenario developed, the situation worsened. A fire broke out in an illicit ‘superlab’ where the drug was synthesised, sending a plume of toxic smoke into the air and endangering the health of the public in its path. The disaster was set in the border town of Strabane, so that cooperation and interoperability between both sets of emergency responders could be demonstrated. Developers of the S-HELP platform, Dr Andrew Pope and Dr Simon Woodworth (UCC-BIS) walked the users through the suite of tools, enabling them to familiarise themselves with each of the constituent parts. Attendees at the event saw how each of the tools could be utilised in this type of disaster and the potential benefits to their organisation from the information and data which was available via the S-HELP system.
The exercise was the second of three such events; a simulated pandemic took place in Tel Aviv in September and the final exercise will be a flooding scenario to be held this November in Cork. The S-HELP project concludes in January 2017 with a final event where the platform and suite of tools will be demonstrated. To register your interest for this event please email coordinator KarenNeville@UCC.ie See www.fp7-shelp.eu or follow @fp7shelp to find out more.