Monday, 23 October 2017 03:37

Emergency services test emergency response plan at airport

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Emergency services test emergency response plan at airport Michael Boutilier

Various emergency services participated in a simulated scenario at the Swift Current Airport on Oct. 11 to test their readiness to deal with a real emergency event at the airfield.

“I thought it went fairly well,” Swift Current Fire Chief Denis Pilon said. “We made the odd little mistake, but for the most part the response was good from all agencies. We work together very well in Swift Current and this just confirmed the type of relationship that we have between the emergency services.”
The exercise to evaluate the airfield’s emergency response plan was necessary to comply with federal regulations for maintaining the airport’s operating licence.
“The City owns the airport and it is required to do a full-scale exercise every four years,” he said.
The City and R.M. of Swift Current fire departments, Swift Current EMS, the RCMP, and the Department of National Defence participated in the exercise. The military representatives participated as observers and technical advisors.
“The military was involved as part of setting it up and giving us some instructions,” he explained. “They had two members there. One member from the military and one member from the company that runs the training base at Moose Jaw.”
The simulated emergency scenario for the exercise involved a collision between a small commercial aircraft and a two-seater military training jet.
“A small plane with eight passengers was taking off and a military trainer from Moose Jaw was doing a low pass over the airport, and they collided,” he said. “The two members from the military aircraft had ejected and the other passengers were spread all over the area.”
The exercise helped the emergency services to become more familiar with the airfield property.
“We don’t get to drive around out there and even off the runway,” he said. “Where we were there’s still a lot of ditches and stuff that we weren’t aware of.”
The main shortcoming that was identified during the exercise was the coordination of communication between the different emergency services.
“That comes up with just about every exercise,” he said. “Inter-agency communications were a bit of a problem. We don’t work together, talk together on our radios often enough to get familiar with it. So that’s something we need to spend more time with.”
The emergency services use different radio systems and channels for their own communication on a daily basis.
“There is a provincial system that we can all switch to, and we don’t do that often enough to be really familiar with it,” he said. “So from that perspective it didn’t work. It’s just about familiarity and training on that communication system.”
The emergency services have a good understanding of the command system during a joint response to an incident and that did not present any difficulties during this scenario.
“We’ve got a very good relationship with the R.M. and with the police and with the ambulance,” he said. “So there’s no argument over who’s in command. We all understand each other’s responsibilities.”
Typically the first person on the scene will assume command, but a more senior person will assume command as more emergency personnel arrive on a scene.
“In this scenario one of our fire trucks was first on scene,” he said. “They assumed command and a while later when our deputy arrived, he assumed command. … In an incident like this, typically it boils down to manpower and who has the people to do that type of thing.”
In a scenario such as this one at the airfield with a lot of casualties, the ambulance service might be stretched to the limit and too busy to also take on command responsibilities.
“During the firefighting it would normally be the fire, after that it would be medical, but at the end of the day the RCMP are ultimately responsible until Transport Canada gets there with their investigation team,” he said.
“So it will change three or four times throughout an incident and we understand that and we respect that. We’re prepared to work with whoever is in command.”
The City and R.M. of Swift Current fire departments have a joint protocol with regard to responding to emergency incidents at the airport.
“We’re both dispatched at the same time,” he said.
“So when there’s an incident out there we both go.”
In the case of an emergency situation outside the airfield perimeter, the R.M. of Swift Current Fire Department will respond first.
“We have a mutual aid agreement with them,” he said. “So if they need us, all they got to do is make a call to dispatch and dispatch will have us on the way almost immediately. So it would depend on the situation.”
The Swift Current Fire Department will provide support to the R.M. of Swift Current Fire Department during various emergency situations, for example with the provision of water at the scene of a fire in the rural area.
“We work together very well,” Pilon noted. “We’ve got a good relationship with them and we plan to maintain that.”


Read 316 times Last modified on Friday, 20 October 2017 09:45
Matthew Liebenberg


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