Yesterday TAP’s Safety Department and Emergency Response Unit attended a presentation about sharing experiences in the Hangar 6 Auditorium. The main theme was “emergency responses when the improbable happens”. Malaysia Airlines hit the headlines twice in 2014. Flight MH370 disappeared without a trace in March and flight MH17 was shot down in July when it was flying over Ukraine. These were the main sharing points at the event.
“Malaysia Airlines experienced something that no other airline had ever had to face before: two major accidents in the space of four months, when the first aircraft disappeared and the second was shot down over Ukraine. These were two completely different tragedies with highly unique characteristics.” This was how Marta Almeida, head of TAP’s Emergency Response Unit, set the scene for the event.
Six speakers were invited to take part in the initiative, which focused on issues with the greatest impact on the management of and response to emergencies, such as the need to set up dedicated teams, to inform and care for families, to collaborate with government bodies and handle legal procedures, to deal with cultural and religious matters and, in short, overcome the challenges and create new procedures with the ultimate goal of being prepared.
Guest speakers – Amin Serri, Tengku Hazwani, Fuad Sharuji, Sharifah Asmaa, Sheik Ahmad Kamalrulzaman and Intan Darlina Muhammad
Intan Darlina Muhammad, whose presentation focused on assistance provided to the families, spoke of the importance of being prepared for crisis situations. “Nothing ever prepares you for a crisis like this. We have to practice and receive training but the reality is always different and we have to adapt." Speaking of the two Malaysia Airlines incidents, he said, “The two crises ended up bringing people together and enabling them to show their true capabilities. There are angels everywhere. We are going to continue to help for as long as it takes. If we help only one person, it will have been worth it.”
One of the most moving moments of the meeting was certainly the contribution from Sharifah Asmaa, widow of Ahmed Hakimi Hanapi, First Officer on flight MH17, about the importance of receiving support from a specialised team assisting the victims’ families. She highlighted the need for a caregiver, of having somewhere to go other than your home and having people to talk to. “The people that know you best are the ones you want to avoid. It’s better to be with strangers, with the help team, who don’t judge you or tell you what to do.” As her husband was not a passenger but a member of the crew on the flight, Sharifah recalled the difference this made. “The passengers were going on a trip and so they said goodbye to their families. My husband just went to work. There’s no proper ‘goodbye’ for that." This moving story took the audience back to the day when she received the tragic news.
Marta Almeida said that the event provided a unique opportunity for everyone who plays an important role in responding to emergencies to hear first-hand from people who were actually there about the different challenges that they faced and the lessons they had to learn. “Not everything is included in the manuals or check-lists. Meetings like this help us truly understand, because the participants share the good and the bad so that other airlines can learn to deal with these situations.”
Rute Matos, TAP Care Team, Fernando Pinto – Executive Chairman of TAP and Marta Almeida – TAP Emergency Response