Earthquake and volcanic eruption to devastate Portsmouth in disaster simulation exercise where Hampshire emergency services will prepare for a catastrophe

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Portsmouth will be hit by an earthquake, a volcanic eruption and a major storm next week – as part of a disaster simulation.

A realistic training exercise, hosted by the University of Portsmouth and The Simex Series Trust, will see national and international emergency response organisations demonstrate how they would deal with a catastrophe in Hampshire. The returning event, which last year enacted the collapse of Spinnaker Tower, will kick off of at the university on Tuesday, May 9 and run until Thursday, May 11. SIMEX23 will depict a severe humanitarian disaster including severe flooding, environmental pollution, collapsed buildings and displacement of people. Exercises will also take place at other locations around the city.

On Tuesday, as an integral part of the exercise, there will be a simulated mass casualty incident at the university’s Centre for Simulation in Health and Care where Nursing and Allied health care professional students will treat patients with a variety of different injuries. A second event on Wednesday, will have a paediatric focus. This will involve children travelling in a minibus to the Historic Dockyard for a school trip being brought into the simulated hospital, where they will be triaged and appropriately treated after being involved in a mock road traffic accident on the A27.

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Emergency workers practising in last year's SIMEX simulation.Emergency workers practising in last year's SIMEX simulation.
Emergency workers practising in last year's SIMEX simulation.

Phil Crook, exercise director of The Simex Series and teaching fellow in Crisis and Disaster Management at the University, said: ‘Exercises such as this allow responders to practise their capabilities to be ready for deployment in emergencies of all types. This event is also used as a basis for a significant amount of research into how response can be more effective, training and exercising can be improved and emerging technologies can be incorporated to enhance organisational capabilities.’

Nursing staff and doctors from Queen Alexandra Hospital will join nursing academics and students from medical and drama courses to attend to the ‘casualties’ and gain vital learning experiences.

Melanie Tanner, senior teaching fellow in the School of Health and Care Professions at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘During their shift, our nursing students will be undertaking the role of a “band five registered nurse”. Each student will be designated an area, for example minors, majors, or resus, and will be linked with a registered nurse from QA who will be coordinating and leading the care required. They can expect a variety of patients with both physical and mental health conditions.

‘The whole exercise is an educational activity for all of the team involved and as such, there will be certain points in the day that we will freeze action to enable everyone to learn from some more significant presenting injuries. This is a great opportunity to work with our fantastic team at the Queen Alexander Hospital and prepare our future nursing and allied health professionals to be safe, confident and competent practitioners.’

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Medical staff practising in last year's SIMEX simulation.Medical staff practising in last year's SIMEX simulation.
Medical staff practising in last year's SIMEX simulation.

On Wednesday, the student nurses will also support a team from the University’s Crisis and Disaster Management course in undertaking a number of scenarios based on a refugee incident at other exercise sites around Portsmouth. This will offer the students valuable learning opportunities involving communication and de-escalation skills.

The annual SIMEX Series exercise, which started in 2012, comprises a mix of live, simulation and command and control events in order to test both national and international emergency response.