While beautiful, the Australian landscape can be harsh and unforgiving. Affecting and devastating the lives of so many people across the country, the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019/20 are now permanently etched into our psyche. But there are many other challenges we face in this dry, sun-baked land, particularly in the Northern Territory where daytime temperatures can reach 40˚C, often followed by sub-zero overnight temperatures, rocky escarpments, buffalo, snakes and crocodiles.
These are tough conditions to survive in, and so if you get lost, you can quickly find yourself facing a life and death situation if you’re unfamiliar with the environment.
Each year, approximately 38,000 people go missing in Australia, and while 98% of those missing cases result in a person being found safe and well, search and rescue operations are both physically and mentally gruelling for those involved, particularly in harsh, remote locations.
Many of the people who go missing in the Northern Territory are travellers, often from overseas, who are unfamiliar with the dry searing heat of Central Australia, the humidity of the Top End, and the vast distances between major towns and centres.
For many who go missing, it’s often days, sometimes even weeks, before the alarm is raised by friends or family. And by that time, search and rescue personnel are at a major disadvantage; the distance to the last known location of the missing person, the amount of time that has lapsed since their last contact with loved ones, and the lack of technology in vast areas of the state are all major obstacles to be overcome.
Additionally, there is then the logistical problem of how and where to establish the headquarters for the search and rescue operation. Although large in area, with the Northern Territory having such vast distances between towns and major centres, search and rescue operations bases are often established hundreds of kilometres away from the last known location of the missing person, meaning valuable time can be lost and personnel have to travel large distances to the incident site.
These issues were highlighted recently when two young males went missing in the Northern Territory outback.
The pair are from the remote community of Hermannsburg approximately 125km south-west of Alice Springs, and were reported missing by family members after failing to return to their community after a weekend away.
When police received the missing person’s report, it had already been approximately 96 hours since the pair were last heard from. With their last known location being 330km north-east of Alice Springs, police and emergency services personnel held grave fears for the pair, given the extreme weather conditions in the area at the time, and the fact that they were unsure what provisions they had with them.
When the vehicle the pair were travelling in was located in the Harts Ranges, three and a half hours away from Hermannsburg, land and air searches commenced immediately. But with such a huge search area to cover, locating the men was a monumental task for the police, emergency service personnel, volunteers and community members dedicated to finding them.
Incredibly after an extensive and exhaustive search and rescue operation, almost four days after they were first reported missing, the first man was found wandering in remote bushland. Although the pair had been separated, the second male was found the following day.
Fortunately, this outcome was a happy one for all involved, with both men only requiring minor treatment for dehydration and foot injuries from walking in the remote bushland.
This is a real-life situation. Distance to an incident site can have a significant impact on the success or not of an emergency; time lost in travel, maintaining situation awareness and fatigue management of front-line emergency workers.
But suppose the search and rescue headquarters had been based closer to the incident site, rather than out of Alice Springs some three hours away. In that case, valuable time could have been saved, and resources could have been better utilised, meaning the men may have been found earlier.
For instance, if a purpose-built, self-sustaining, temporary infrastructure solution could have been rapidly deployed to the last known location of the men, headquarters for the search and rescue operation could have been established within a matter of hours close to the incident site, rather than hundreds of kilometres away.
Additionally, if search and rescue personnel could have been comfortably accommodated at the incident site for the duration of the operation with shower and toilet facilities available, this would have helped significantly reduce fatigue levels.
And, if communications/briefing room facilities could have been established close to the last known location of the men, the Incident Commander and senior personnel would have been on-site and able to provide immediate operational support to the search and rescue teams.
In the above situation, the Cooper, designed and engineered by Humanihut Pty Ltd, would have been the ideal rigid, rapidly redeployable, self-sustaining temporary infrastructure solution for search and rescue headquarters.
Providing self-sufficiency for up to 12 people for up to seven days, the Cooper is a logistically efficient, fully integrated, autonomous temporary infrastructure solution.
Delivered directly to the required location worldwide in one container by land, air, sea, or rail, and able to be redeployed as many times as required throughout its 20-year lifespan, the Cooper can be established in just a few hours.
Able to withstand the harshest of climatic conditions, the Cooper consists of up to three climate-controlled Huts which offer UV protection, thermal insulation and double-glazed windows, and these Huts can be customised to suit a variety of purposes, including accommodation, office/communication/briefing spaces, and/or storage facilities for IT and other valuable equipment.
And, once emptied, the container in which the Cooper is deployed converts into a bathroom, providing two showers and two toilets for additional occupant comfort.
Deployed with its own life-support system, a power generator, macerator pumps for sewerage, water storage and pumps, electrical systems and hut furniture are all contained on, and secured to, the skid, providing complete self-sufficiency.
Being flexible, scalable and versatile in its design and engineering, the Cooper is ideally suited to search and rescue operations, and also offers five-star temporary infrastructure on the fire ground.
The Cooper is the ideal solution in many fire and emergency situations in sparsely populated, remote locations.
For preventative, planned burn-offs prior to fire season commencement, the Cooper allows personnel to be close to the site, and can be utilised as accommodation, communications area and/or storage. This means that planning and control that used to happen in trucks can now take place in superior temporary facilities, releasing emergency vehicles for mobile operations.
Additionally, the Cooper is ideally suited for fire recovery operations when rapidly deployable accommodation is required close to the fireground. And with its diversity, flexibility and scalability, should more accommodation and/or communication facilities be required, this can be easily achieved by deploying additional configurations to the required location.
With the ability to be redeployed as many times as required and with rapid establishment and pack-up times, the Cooper, as with all Humanihut Field Infrastructure System configurations, has been designed and engineered to exceed expectations – operationally, financially and environmentally.