Exercise Atlas puts Contact Energy through its paces

  • April 14, 2013
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Getting everyone on the same page during a crisis is a challenge and the best way to prepare for it is to run realistic exercises that put everyone through their paces.

During February Kestrel Group teamed up with Fire and Emergency Training Solutions (FETS) to ensure that Contact Energy was tested at both the Crisis Management Team and the Site Emergency Response Team levels.

Sandra Pedersen, Director Kestrel Group, says the scenario was a 7.6 earthquake in Wellington.

“Essentially we wanted a realistic scenario where the earthquake wasn’t necessarily ‘the big one’ but it was big enough to cause significant damage, there was no power or water and those at work were unable to leave the building.”

“This exercise really was very successful – there was fantastic buy-in from the Crisis Management Team. They got right into it and had to unplug all their technology, the lights were out and they got fully involved. “

“It was also great to see an exercise played out from the bottom up with floor wardens all involved along with the call management team in Dunedin,” says Sandra.

Ray Willows, Manager of Risk and Emergency Management for Contact Energy says that Contact Energy has an annual exercise for the Crisis Management Team, but combining this with Site Emergency Response in the one building, at the same time, was a new thing.

“One of the most obvious scenarios that we should be ready for in central Wellington is a significant earthquake during work hours. We wanted to provide the opportunity for the Head Office team to respond to that scenario in a six story building with up to 400 people in it. This meant activating both the Crisis Management and the Site Emergency Response teams.”

Ray says the challenge was to see if both teams could stick to their designated roles and also communicate well with each other. That’s where having Kestrel involved facilitating the Crisis Management Team, and FETS on the Site Emergency Response side worked really well, says Ray.

“Under this scenario we had the site response guys dealing with the issues on the floor with the floor wardens, first aid and immediate staff welfare. The Crisis Management Team were looking at the wider people and strategic issues and going forward how we were going to get back up and running with our business continuity plans. “

“The key role for the Crisis Team in this role was to support the site team with the big decisions – give permission for the big cheques to be written and then look at the business continuity issues like at what point we would hand over control to our non-Wellington based Crisis Management Team.”

FETS Director, Trevor Moss, says it was impressive to see the teams working so well together in such a structured manner. “It was amazing how busy the first two hours of the exercise were. The Site Emergency Response Team had to gather information, prioritise and then come up with an incident action plan. There was an awful lot of work involved in getting to that point and the time just flew by.”

Ray says there were some key learnings to come out of the exercise, including how both teams work together, their roles and responsibilities, as well as practical things like the need for two-way radio contact between the crisis and site response teams even when in the same multi-storey building.

Each of the recommendations to come out of the day was formally documented and is being followed up on.

Ray says having both Kestrel and FETS facilitate the exercise worked very well. “There was great value for us having them both come in and facilitate the exercise. They both bring a lot of experience of working with other companies around the country and are involved in Civil Defence and Fire Service matters at a practical level – everybody gains from that knowledge and experience.”