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Mock bombing exercise prompts fast response at Castlegar airport

Emergency exercise at West Kootenay Regional airport

A plane departing the West Kootenay Regional Airport receives a bomb threat just after takeoff, the plane circles back, but the bomb detonates shortly after landing. That was the mock scenario for an emergency preparedness exercise last week at Castlegar’s airport.

Transport Canada requires the airport to conduct a full-scale emergency exercise every four years.

About 40 participants including volunteer victims, city staff, airline staff, and members of the Castlegar Fire Department, BC Ambulance, Nav Canada and the Commissionaires rehearsed what to do should a disaster occur at the airport.

Airport manager Maciej Habrych said the Nov. 23 exercise went well.

“It was impressive seeing all responding agencies working together and in coordination,” said Habrych. “This exercise is a unique opportunity for all involved to practice first response skills and coordination in a regulated airport setting.”

He also said response times were excellent given the large areas that emergency agencies cover.

“You could sense the urgency by all involved in responding as quickly as possible.”

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Castlegar Fire Department was the first to arrive on scene, less than 10 minutes from the time the dispatch call went out.

Burn barrels near the runway subbed in for smoldering wreckage and CFD used their vehicle-mounted hose to douse the worst of the flames before crews exited the engine to deploy fire hoses.

The exercise included about a dozen “victims” who braved the cold and snow while awaiting help from the paramedics for mock injuries such as broken legs, chest pain and brain injuries. Each victim had a tag that described their injuries and how to act.

Once assessed, the injured were transported to a triage centre that was set up in the airport maintenance building.

In the event of a real emergency at the airport, Habrych says to watch for correspondence through official releases in the form of press releases, social media posts or interviews given by designated officials.

In such an event, traffic would be diverted away from the airport and an emergency operations centre would likely be set up at the Castlegar Fire Station.

Habrych says the public would be asked to stay away from the scene while ongoing emergency efforts were taking place.

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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