Emergency response exercises

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This week at Mawson: 29 March 2013

Fire training at Mawson station

As if we didn’t have enough ice on station, the Mawson fire team decided to make a little more. About three tonnes of extra ice was added to the existing station allocation that nature would normally provide us.

We aim to have a fire training exercise every month and this time we mobilised our fire Hagglunds and the entire fire team – that’s basically all 15 of us – as we may need everyone on deck should there be any threatening fire. Under the direction of our fire chief, Trent, we rolled out hoses, connected our fire pump to the station fire hydrants and squirted large quantities of water at high pressure onto an imaginary fire that we hope will never happen in reality.

Even though the wind speed was down and the sun was out, it was still minus 12 outside and our 'fire fighting water' soon turned to ice within seconds on the ground. Nearly all of it was deposited in an area of snow where no-one usually goes, as we knew the inherent dangers of slipping on ice around station. Making more ice in this way is something we usually don’t encourage!

Our fire exercise taught us the many difficulties we face when fighting fire in Antarctica. Our extinguishing water must be kept moving at all times, otherwise it will freeze. Dealing with all the fire equipment and metal fittings at -12 degrees was challenging enough but this would be worse when temperatures drop further paired with regular katabatic wind.

Hence, there is considerable emphasis here for fire prevention and monitoring so that we can avoid any serious fire incident that would inevitably devastate our winter, like it did here in 1959 when the main power house burned to the ground. (Below: refer to J Bechervaise picture)

Staying safe with Rescue Alive

An interesting piece of safety equipment arrived here at Mawson on resupply. This is our 'Rescue Alive' sled for sea ice and water rescue. Essentially this is a combined ice sled and highly buoyant water craft that can be used to rescue someone who has fallen through sea ice or is floating in sea water. By the way, the sea temperature here is usually close to freezing at around -1.9 degrees C.

The following pictures tell the story of our rescue exercise early in the week where Chris (in the water) was 'rescued' by Peter L. using the Rescue Alive sled on the sea ice.

The exercise went extremely well with many on station giving it a try, all wearing dry-suits and appropriate safety equipment. At the same time, the newly formed sea ice in Horseshoe harbour was measured at around 100mm.

Mawson fire exercise showing a fire truck and expeditioners if firefighting uniforms during the training
The team turn out for a fire exercise
(Photo: Graham Cook)
Darron and Chris in uniform directing the high pressure hose  at fire exercise
Darron and Chris to the rescue
(Photo: Graham Cook)
Mawson fire response exercise
The Doc keeps an eye on proceedings
(Photo: Graham Cook)
Mawson Fire 1959 - the entire power house ablaze
What we really don't want to see - power house fire in…
(Photo: John Bechervaise (File Photo))
Rescue alive sea ice device being used showing one expeditioner on device pulling another from the icy water
Throw him back, you don't have a permit to collect marine mammals
(Photo: John Burgess)
Rescue Alive recovery exercise where one expeditioner is on a small floating device rescuing another expeditioner from icy water
Pete L. pulls Pepe out of the water
(Photo: John Burgess)
Rescue Alive recovery exercise - a small floating device with two expeditioners aboard is pulled by rope from sea ice and water
A quick, safe recovery accomplished
(Photo: John Burgess)
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