Are we ready for a mass evacuation?

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Can Australia cope with a mass casualty evacuation in the wake of a terrorist attack or natural disaster?

That question will be answered at the University of Adelaide on November 13-15 when the country's top military medical and civilian experts will take part in Australia's first Aeromedical Evacuation Think Tank.

Designed to identify key strategies for major national disasters, the workshop will bring together domestic and international experts from the Defence Forces, government, and civilian aeromedical evacuation providers.

Head of the University of Adelaide's Centre for Military Veterans Health, Professor Sandy McFarlane, said the current global instability demanded a national approach to "significant disasters".

"The Bali bombings in 2002 showed us that we need an integrated approach between the military and civilian organisations. We need to be better aligned and improve our communication strategies," Professor McFarlane said.

"Australia is in a unique position due to the large continental land mass and major distances between cities. With a significant number of our citizens travelling overseas, and in the light of the risk of major emergencies, we need to ensure our aeromedical evacuation capabilities are first class."

The workshop will explore case studies such as the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people and injured more than 300, resulting in Australia's largest peacetime aeromedical evacuation.

Responses to other mass casualty incidents, including the 2005 Bali bombings and 2004 Bundaberg tilt train crash, will also be analysed.

Lieutenant Colonel Marc Robins from the United States Air Force and Colonel Jim Stewart will discuss lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Workshop participants will include Air Vice Marshal Tony Austin AM (Head of the Defence Health Services Division) and Mr Tony Pearce (Director General Emergency Management Australia).

NOTE TO EDITORS: The workshop will be held at the National Wine Centre. Media are invited to attend the one-hour plenary session, which starts at 9am on Monday, November 13. All are other sessions are closed. Professor McFarlane, Air Vice Marshal Austin and Tony Pearce will be available for interview at 10am.


Contact Details

Professor Sandy McFarlane
Director, Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies
School of Population Health
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5200
Mobile: 0419 810 962

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762