AUST – Emergency Plan asks what do you do if there is an emergency during an Emergency Response Exercise under AS 3745-2010 Planning for emergencies in facilities? No one will argue with the wisdom of practicing emergency response exercises. For most occupants this means actually using the fire stairs or other emergency exit and walking to the assembly area.  Actually going through the process stores learned behaviour that makes the response to an actual emergency more organised, quicker and more effective.

Few people realise all the reasons why the death toll from the most famous building disaster in living memory – the Twin Towers of 9-11 2001 – could have been a lot worse. All the people who were below the point of impact in both buildings survived the emergency. In the North Tower where fire stairs remained intact between the floors above and below the floors of impact, some people above the impact survived too. They all evacuated within 102 minutes of the first impact. Compare this to the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993, when the building took over 4 hours to evacuate.

What was the difference? One major factor was that after the bombing in 1993 regular emergency response exercises were undertaken. Occupants learned where the emergency exits and stairs were and where they led to when they left the building.

But, just to be doubly cautious, what do you do if there is a real emergency during an emergency response exercise? Under AS 3745, how does the Chief Warden receive the message that the emergency response exercise is now real and how does the Chief Warden convey this to the rest of the Emergency Control Organisation?

The new AS 3745 – 2010 Planning for emergencies in facilities has documented an accepted approach. AS 3745 suggests a pre-determined phrase like ‘NO DUFF’ is disseminated to all emergency control organisation members for use if an actual emergency occurs during an emergency response exercise, and detailed in the emergency plan. If the Wardens hear this instruction – often repeated three times for clarity – they know the emergency response exercise is terminated and they should stand by for further instructions as required by AS 3745.

Where did the phrase NO DUFF come from in AS 3745? One theory is that it is a variation of the acronym of the letters NDF. This was used in aviation training to stand for ‘No Directional Finding’. Directional finding was a method of using radio signals from a plane to determine the bearing of the source from the receiver. Using more than one receiver triangulated the location of the plane. During training of radio operators, radio signals were sent just for the purpose of directional finding. If a real message needed to be sent, the message was prefaced with ‘NO DUFF’ so that the receivers would know the message was real and not for the purposes of directional finding.