Last Saturday I was on a night out in Glasgow when I saw the news unfold about a helicopter crash. It was at the Clutha pub, which was just half a mile away from where we were. It is now known that three of the crew lost their lives as did six people who were in the pub at the time.
The crash prompted a difficult and complex operation involving all aspects of the emergency services. The work they carried out, in dangerous conditions, to search the site and remove bodies from the rubble, has received much praise.
This was obviously a deeply tragic incident.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Nobody goes out to the pub in the evening expecting a helicopter to crash through the roof and kill them. Although aircraft crashes in urban areas are rare, they are not completely unknown. The Lockerbie disaster, the El Al cargo plane crash in Amsterdam and of course 9/11 are all examples of this happening. This year there was a crash of a private helicopter in London that hit a crane; luckily nobody was killed in the crash. My point is that although aircraft crashes in urban areas are rare, they do happen. We always seem to believe it will never happen to us.
2. When I heard stories from the scene it made me proud of the response of local people. Instead of running from the scene, those passing ran toward the incident to see if they could help. Regardless of any danger, they formed a human chain and rescued people from the pub. I have seen lots of helicopter crashes in films and they usually seem to end with a fireball so they must have been putting themselves in grave danger. There was an interview with Jim Murphy, a Labour Party MP who was passing and helped with the rescue efforts. He was interviewed with blood on his shirt and when asked about it, all he commented was that the “blood was not his own”. I think in business continuity terms we have to acknowledge that dangerous situations can bring out the best in people and those involved, even if they are not trained responders, will do their best to get involved in the rescue.
3. People who are involved in the rescue might suffer trauma and need trauma counselling in the long term. I was listening to a programme on the radio and it was discussing helicopter crashes and talking to someone who had survived one. He was talking about the trauma he suffered and how he found it very useful to talk to other survivors. One of the points I picked up was that he felt abandoned by the company that employed him, as he was a contractor rather than an employee. An interesting point for us BC people is how much responsibility do we take for looking after our contractors, temporary workers and consultants after an incident? Can we offer them ongoing support?
4. A helicopter crashing into your building would make an excellent exercise scenario. Remember it is rare, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Give it a try.