Disaster Relief Exercise 'Ex Sahayata' was inaugurated by Air Marshal RK Dhir, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, South Western Air Command on September 14, 2016 at Vayu Shakti Nagar Gandhinagar. The aim of the exercise was to identify weaknesses in existing procedures and enhance synergy amongst various agencies, to improve disaster prevention, mitigation and response. Dr JN Singh, IAS, Chief Secretary Gujarat State, in his key note address, emphasized upon better co-ordination, synergy and interface among different services and organizations providing disaster relief. The three day exercise started with a table top discussion on September 14, 2016 which was followed by a mock drill simulating an earthquake in the Bhuj region on September 15, 2016. NDMA, GSDMA, NDRF, Gujarat Police, State Fire Department, AAI, IIT, Media, State Medical Department, Adani Infra Institute besides Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, Indian Coast Guard, NCC along with other disaster relief agencies participated in the exercise. This was the first such exercise bringing together Central and State Government agencies, Armed Forces, private companies, prime educational and research institutes and media.
Disaster relief agencies demonstrated assets and their use in a static and aerial display at the Vayu Shakti Nagar Helipad after the table top exercise on September 14, 2016. The demonstration comprised of showcasing capabilities of various agencies like the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Gujarat Medical Authority, NDRF and BSNL.
The second day of the Exercise saw simulation of an Earthquake in Bhuj on September 15, 2016 and the preparedness for rescue / relief therein.
An earthquake of 8.0 Richter magnitude was simulated approximately 30 km North of Bhuj on September 14, 2016 at 0545 hrs. Personnel of Air Force Station Bhuj were activated to provide relief to affected personnel. Various transport aircraft including C-17 Globe Master, AN32 and AVRO were activated to position relief material. Safety procedures and evacuation drills were practiced. The efficacy of a year long training to the personnel and families towards disaster preparedness was evident from the efficiency of the rescue personnel who worked with precision during the earthquake evacuation and rescue drills.
A method of inspection of safe and unsafe buildings was demonstrated, as were various methods of rescue. These included rope ladder rescue, rope bucket evacuation and firemen lift rescue. Air Force Station Bhuj setup a secure communication network using six Mobile Communications Terminals (MCT) each capable of a 20 line secure exchange using satellite communication. Cranes, motor vehicle and all assets of the Air Force were used for rubble clearance and to convey evacuation teams. Sniffer dogs were used to look for life in damaged buildings. A 12 bed field hospital was setup to provide medical care to personnel and families. Additionally a minor Operation Theater (OT) and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was setup for handling serious cases. An open field kitchen was setup under hygienic conditions to cater for meals for 2000 personnel.
The second day of the exercise saw active participation by District Administration and NDRF personnel in sync with the air warriors. Two Indian Navy vessels INS Delhi and INS Subhadra suitably modified in ambulance mode formed part of the exercise positioned at Mundra Port for provisioning of relief material and medical aid.
On this occasion, Air Marshal S Harpal Singh, Senior Air Staff Officer, HQ SWAC IAF addressed the gathering and brought out the importance of preparedness of the IAF personnel towards earthquake relief. He assured all that IAF would do everything to ensure that the effects of the earthquake are minimized. For this it is important that such coordination exercises are practiced regularly.
- Wg Cdr Abhishek Matiman