A large scale disaster exercise took place in the Antwerp province on Saturday, as part of the European “Airbeam” project. It showed how valuable drones and other tele-detection systems could be to emergency services. The scenario included a fire at the trans-border De Zoom-Kalmthoutse Heide National Park, and eight scouts going missing. At the same time, a strong tempest hit the Graspop festival at Dessel, in the Retie region. Finally, at Ranst, a chemical leak from a tanker truck posed a public health risk.
The three sites were filmed from the air using five drones, two anchored balloons, and a plane. “These images are important for fire safety, dealing with chemical spills, search parties for missing people, or even damage limitation”, explains Kristine Verheyden, from the Flemish organisation VITO, which developed the scenario.
The information is stored in a general coordination centre, which dispatches emergency services. The biggest challenge for this exercise was to insure all the tele-detection systems communicate between themselves efficiently. Nearly 150 people from various countries took part in the exercise. It is said to have shown how useful technology could be during disasters.