Joint Hellenic-Turkish military Natural Disaster Intervention exercise “NDI 08”

On 14 May 2008 a joint Hellenic-Turkish military Natural Disaster Intervention exercise (“NDI 08”) was conducted in Athens. The exrcise was organised in the framework of implementation of the Building of Confidence Measures between the two countries. The Hellenic Air Force participated with the HAF Disaster Response Team (KOMAK) and Turkey with a detachment of the TSK Dogal Afetler Arama/Kurtarma Timleri (DAK).

The aim of the exercise was to exchange information and experience in NDI activities, to improve co-operation capabilities, to improve and test NDI SOP/TTPs (Standard Operating Procedures / Tactics, Techniques and Procedures) in case of a natural disaster; and to enhance operational interoperability between the military NDI units of both countries. The exercise was conducted at a simulated exercise field at the HAF Engineering Wing (MAK).

According to the exercise scenario, an earthquake struck Athens with a magnitude of 7.4 which caused extensive damages. The HAF NDR reconnaissance team reached the disaster area and reported that many military buildings were completely damaged while personnel were injured and others were trapped in the rubbles. Communications and electric systems had collapsed and only limited transportation was possible.

The exercise commenced with the arrival of a SUPER PUMA helicopter, which hovered over the disaster area. Aerial photographs and real time video were transmitted to the National Centre of Operations for a first assessment of the destruction. Following this, the Joint Operations Officers of KOMAK and DAK entered the site in order to undertake a first reconnaissance and an assessment of the situation. Wearing protective masks, they transmitted information to the General Staff and requested the immediate arrival of an CBRN team, a fire-fighter vehicle, a force protection team and NDI rescue teams.

An NBC Reconnaissance segment, belonging to Hellenic Special Joint CBRN Battalion, searched the disaster area using special equipment in order to detect the possible existence of gas toxic substances. Following a comprehensive search, detectors verified that the area of operations is gas free and, thus, rescue teams were deployed into the area. A stand-by military fire-fighting vehicle extinguished a fire burning in the ruins. Force protection was provided by 31 Special Ops Squadron.

Following the initiation of a preliminary rescue plan, the orderly NDI operation begun with the removal of the surface victims. This phase was conducted as quickly and safely as possible. Following an initial clinical evaluation, the joint medical team decided about the type of medical care, which was provided either on the scene or the nearby field medical centre. When first aid provision was completed, the victims were evacuated from the site.

Then, the second and more complicated stage of the rescue operation commenced. Specially trained search dogs and handlers from both teams made a thorough check of the collapsed buildings. Telescopic fibre optic mini cameras and electronic listening devices were used in order to provide an image of the situation under the debris. The site was then marked in order to identify the location of the victims. Medium machinery in the form of reinforced concrete penetration and cutting tools were used by joint rescue teams to enter the structure either vertically or horizontally. Treatment in the field of trapped victims included the placement of tourniquet and a first infusion of crystalides. The primary task was the quick evacuation to a nearby hospital where proper treatment could be applied. According to the scenario, redeployment begun when it was believed that there was no possibility of survivors beneath the rubbles.

The exercise was conducted in a co-operative climate and its objectives were fully met.