THERE IS NO
rescuers will face. Structural collapse and confined
space rescues are extremely dangerous and uncertain even under the most controlled situations.
Many airports have partnered with municipal
departments to form task forces, but specialized
rescue equipment required for this broad range of
operations is expensive. To address this issue, we
agreed to provide storage space for the specialized rescue trailers, thus ensuring they would be
on property, if needed. The local fire department
special operations division has additional resources
that may be co-funded through mutual partnerships.
Mass casualty incident and state medical destination guidelines may have to be modified.
Makeshift triage and field treatment centers may
have to suffice. First responders are required to
locate, identify and tag all causalities according
to START (Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment)
criteria. Medical issues may prove to be the most
challenging aspect of the recovery. Where do you
house and treat scores of seriously or critically
injured victims when there is no transportation
or hospital infrastructure available? Most airports
stockpile enough medical supplies to account for
the largest passenger aircraft traffic, although there
are usually several aircraft and hundreds of passengers at an airport during any given time. This
also does not take into account the employees and
family members who will be on the property.
Testing the plan is the only way to ensure you
have covered every aspect. FAR 139.325 mandates that all indexed airports conduct a triennial
drill. The drills themselves are as diversified as
the departments that conduct them. Spanning the
range from simple preplanned to unannounced
complex, triennial drills are based on airport
size, volume, index and budgetary restraints.
Expanding this mandatory drill to cover a wider
spectrum of events may be cost efficient. It also
opens up communication and dialogue with agencies not typically dealt with by the airport. Your
airport must recognize the potential for a large-scale mass causality incident and be prepared for
a worst-case scenario.
We have seen that the airport played a major
role during past community-wide disasters. The
recovery efforts following hurricanes Katrina and
Andrew and the Haitian earthquake all heavily
relied on the airport. An airport may be the only
resource for receiving goods and services the community desperately needs, so it is imperative the
airport be reopened as soon as possible.
Honest post-incident critiques and after-action
reports must be performed. Each agency must do
a complete evaluation of its own standard operating procedures and what steps may have provided
a more positive outcome. Also, the participants
should be encouraged to suggest policy changes
to other organizations in order to provide a more
coordinated future response. Looking back, most
responders are able to identify steps and procedures that could have been executed in a more
timely and efficient manner.
The purpose of a drill is a learning event that
can be evaluated and improved upon. Preparing
for the worst, yet hoping for the best, appears
to be the universal sentiment among emergency
responders. If we prepare for the absolute worst
case scenario, anything less will be that much
easier for us to handle. A
David Y. Whitaker is chief of Memphis International’s Fire
Department and chairman of the ARFF Working Group. He may
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.