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​Earthquake drill shakes up emergency services
Wednesday 23 August 2017 – 2:30 PM

What would happen if a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck Perth?

This was the scenario played out by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) on Saturday 19 August with Exercise Jaguar. The State level training exercise put more than 200 emergency services personnel to the test in the aftermath of a simulated seismic event, which impacted the suburb of Guildford.

The drill, held at the Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services (WAFES) Academy, included destruction such as building collapses and widespread damage to vital infrastructure.

In the scenario, more than 30,000 people were left homeless, ten people died and thousands were injured or missing.

DFES North East Metropolitan Superintendent Jon Broomhall said an earthquake of this impact could become reality in metro areas. 

“Although it’s rare, it’s a credible threat and as this exercise shows, the consequences are extensive,” he said.

According to Geoscience Australia, Western Australia is an earthquake hotspot, with more earthquakes each year than all other Australian states and territories combined. 

“Emergency services are in the ‘what if’ business so we have to prepare for all kinds of contingencies,” Jon said. 

“It’s vital to test our skills and training in scenarios like this.”

Throughout the day mock incidents included aftershocks and chemical spills.

DFES Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) personnel, firefighters who have undergone specialist training to rescue casualties trapped by buildings and landfalls, were heavily involved in the exercise. USAR technicians worked with canines and surveyors to locate and remove survivors from collapsed buildings. 

DFES Rescue Manager Garth Lawrence said it was the first time in a number of years that the USAR taskforce have had a chance to put their skills to the test alongside their fellow Fire and Rescue Service firefighters. 

“It was a great opportunity to bring our various emergency services together for a coordinated effort and challenge their capabilities,” he said. 

The RAC Rescue helicopter, which is managed by DFES, also took part in the drill using the winch to rescue a trapped person.

“Overall it was a successful exercise which tested emergency services functions in a realistic environment,” Garth said. 

“It enabled teams from different areas within DFES to work together and hone their skills so they’re prepared to protect the community if an earthquake should occur.