Mock disaster tests Trail airport emergency response

Fire, ambulance, police, City of Trail and Pacific Coastal all took part in exercise.

It was a rough day at the Trail Regional Airport.

It started with a call from the morning Pacific Coastal flight coming in: a passenger seemed to be showing signs of having a heart attack. The ambulance was called.

But after the plane landed, something happened to the driver of the refueling truck: he passed out, and hit the plane, spilling Jet-A fuel all over the tarmac. Passengers are injured, wandering around dazed.

More emergency crews rush to the scene. The Kootenay-Boundary Fire Rescue (KBFR) Service, Trail RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, and Pacific Coastal Airlines crews all respond to the sudden crisis.

If that wasn’t enough, the premier is in town attending a conference. Top government officials are phoning City Hall, wanting to know why they can’t fly out of the airport RIGHT NOW.

It’s a good thing it’s all a drill.

On Thursday morning emergency responders launched a comprehensive test of their response procedures for the airport. The KBFR’s fire chief, Dan Derby, says the mock drill is a great way to get his crews prepared for the real thing.

“The exercise is a requirement of the airport with the federal government,” Derby told the Trail Times. “Anytime we can get a full-scale exercise like this, it is a great opportunity for our crews to practice on the site.”

A disaster is a far more complex affair than first responders just showing up and helping injured people. Many agencies, with different jurisdictions, authority and chains of command have to co-ordinate effectively and efficiently. They have to know how to respond with each other and work together. How they do that can determine how effective the response is — and in real terms, that can save lives.

“Working air-side is different, it’s not something you do on a regular basis,” says Derby. “So it’s great opportunity to practice what is in play for all the agencies responding.”

Everything was back to normal at the airport about two hours after the mock exercise. No flights or local traffic were interrupted.

The only real change was emergency crews were a little better prepared to respond, should a real emergency ever strike.

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