The first people to arrive at an aircraft accident site can render valuable assistance to minimise injury and loss of life, reduce property loss through damage and prevent the loss of clues and evidence that are vital to determining the reason for the accident.

Often, emergency services personnel (police, fire brigade and ambulance, and their Defence Force equivalents) are the first trained personnel to arrive at aircraft accident sites. This guide has been prepared by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and the Defence Flight Safety Bureau (DFBS), formerly the Directorate of Defence Aviation and Air Force Safety (DDAAFS), to assist these personnel to:

  • understand the reporting requirements for military and civil aircraft accidents
  • have an awareness of hazards at an aircraft accident site
  • consider how to manage the various hazards
  • understand the requirements of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) and the Defence Aviation Safety Manual
  • manage and control the accident site to preserve essential evidence necessary for the ATSB or DFSB to conduct an effective investigation.

This booklet also features a 'what to do' checklist in its centre pages for easy reference. The checklist should help personnel undertake essential actions as safely as possible.


Role of first responders

There are three main components to the work of first responders to the scene of an aviation accident:

  1. Reporting the accident to the ATSB or DFSB.
  2. Coordination of the accident site including rescuing any survivors, managing fire and hazardous materials and ensuring that the site is secured.
  3. Protection of the aircraft wreckage and associated evidence so that an effective investigation can be conducted.

This guide assumes that first responders will apply their own expert training to deal with victims, manage hazards and control the site. It offers specific advice that may be helpful in identifying and managing the particular hazards and risks associated with an aircraft accident. It also contains important advice about preserving evidence at the site.

While there are mandatory requirements in the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 in regard to civil transport accidents, the guidance material contained in this document does not override specific policies or procedures developed by police, emergency services or other agencies, such as airport authorities.

How can I report?

CIVIL: All civil aircraft accidents must be reported to the ATSB via the toll free number: 1800 011 034.

MILITARY: Contact the DFSB Duty Officer on 02 6144 9199, or by other methods as detailed in this publication.

Publication Mode
Publication date
Series number
Edition 7 - June 2017
Publication type
Review Date
ISBN: 978-1-74251-318-8
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