IT In Emergencies

An Education Resource from the RAF, free to educational institutions.

NOT ANOTHER flight simulator this month, but an educational resource from the RAF themselves. Like many government departments the Air Force have decided to share some of their expertise with the nation’s schools and offer this package free to any genuine educational institution applying for it. Unlike most freebies, which are worth pretty much what you pay for them, «IT In Emergencies* is worth a considerable amount. Leaving the content aside for the moment, nothing has been stinted in the presentation. A high grade cardboard sleeve opens to reveal neatly filed sections:

A set of teacher’s notes and a floppy disc.

A dozen copies of a case study of a genuine rescue, giving stats for all the commonly used hardware. This is a very well presented magazine style report in full colour and on good quality paper. Built to last. After a brief history of the development of RAF Air Sea Rescue, and a briefing on the Sea King and Nimrod, the rest of the document deals with an actual rescue, mounted at the time of the 1990 Fastnet yacht race.

A set of photocopiable work sheets for use in lessons. These aim to take the student through the problems associated with mounting a rescue, leading to the use of the software pock itself. On the way various computer solutions will be devised by the student, as well as paper exercises and use of otner resources, such as the Radio 4 report from weather stations. All of this is designed to prepare you for the simulation itself — for there is a simulation — but something a step removed from the familiar pilot’s hot seat.

This time, once you have installed the suite of software, the simulation is very solid in feel. If you want to (and it’s quite a good idea) you can be guided through a demonstration the first time and then branch out on your own. It is a good idea, because in this simulation, time, not people are the enemy. You are not flying a helicopter or piloting a fighter, but sitting in a different kind of hot seat, that of mission control. The pressure on you is of time. Can you decide on which resources to deploy quickly and efficiently enough to complete o successful rescue?

When an emergency starts all you get is the bare details: the coordinates of the emergency and something of its nature, what has happened and how many injuries, if any.

To help you are a series of maps showing the whole of the British Isles, on which you can superimpose the various rescue resources, helicopter squadrons, lifeboat stations and hospitals that are available.

There is also a database that you can access, giving details of the capabilities of all these resources. So for the mobiles, you can find out their operational range and capability once on site, for the hospitals, their accident and emergency facilities, together with response times.

From your research you have to construct the plan for the mission and then implement it.

You have a radio at your disposal, with which you can communicate with any of the resources you want to deploy. As you issue commands the map updates to show you the track of the various mobiles in real time and a readout at the top of the screen shows you their coordinates and how far they have carried out the latest command that you have given.

Commands are fairly simple, but allow for most of the situations that will arise to be controlled:

Most obviously a call sign followed by GO TO and a set of co-ordinates will start your chosen mobile into motion or redirect it in mid flight.

WEATHER gives an update on the weather conditions.

REFUEL allows for mobiles operating beyond their range to top up, provided they are at a refuelling site.

SURVIVORS gives an update on the state of the people you are after.

RETURN TO BASE explains itself.

PICK UP is the only weak link. It assumes that your ‘copter or lifeboat crew are just too thick to actually rescue the survivors without instructions.

TRANSFER TO allows the survivors to exchange mobiles, from lifeboat to helicopter, for example, in dire emergencies.

SEARCH — once your rescue crew are at the right co-ordinates, then they need to search the area as the survivors drift away.

REPORT allows the mobile to give you its current status.

Although this a brief commanc set, it allows for quite an efficien exchange to take place. You car activate several mobiles at once have them all displaying theii position on your map, make therr report back to you, transfei survivors between mobiles anc move towards a successful outcome.

The only thing you have to fear is the debrief, which will criticise your use of resources and is merciless if your original calculations were out.

It’s a good simulation, designed to educate rather than entertain, but offering a fascinating insight into the work of one arm of the RAF that provides constant, visible proof of its value as a national organisation.

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