Jaclyn Wiley/News Editor
In the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, March 2, emergency response personnel from all around Florida gathered at Daytona Beach International Airport and were greeted by the sight of an aircraft lying in multiple pieces past the end of Runway 34 by Richard Petty Blvd. This was not an air disaster that greeted them, however. It was the airport’s triannual live emergency response drill.
Steve Ward, an Airport Operations Agent at DAB, helped to plan the event and acted as an evaluator. He explained, “Every three years, we have to do a real drill. Every year, we have to do at least a table-top drill, but every third year we have to do a live drill. You have to have so many live people or mannequins,” said Ward. The airport carried the cost of the event, having budgeted $30,000 for the live drill.
The drill scenario was described in the handouts given to participants and observers. These handouts were produced by DAB event organizers. “While attempting to perform a routine landing (5 mile final) on Runway 34 (south end approach) to DAB, Westbiz Flt.7631 announces over the radio to DAB ATC that someone is attempting to gain access into the aircraft’s cockpit (loud bangs can be heard over the radio from the intruder). The cockpit crew advises that they are declaring an emergency and have been instructed by ATC to proceed direct to DAB. DAB ATC immediately declares an Alert II with the a/c less than 4 minutes out. Once notified, DAB ARFF upgrades the alert from the Alert II to an Alert III. As the Westbiz 7631 is on its two mile final, loud noises can be overheard over the cockpit radio with screaming from multiple people.”
The handout continued, “The aircraft appears to be somewhat in distress on its final approach and does not land normally, The a/c overshoots the RWY 34 threshold as it proceeds to just north of taxiway November before touchdown and continues at high speed braking past the 16 threshold, on to the runway safety area overrun then plows through the inner airport perimeter fence and the outer airport perimeter fence finally coming to rest halfway on airport property and halfway on the south side of Richard Petty Blvd. The a/c as observed by DAB ATC broke into three (3) pieces and is displaying heavy smoke.”
The first responders on the scene were the DAB Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) trucks, which immediately began to spray down the wreckage of the plane. This special fire-fighting foam is sprayed on the burning parts of the plane in the event of a real crash, and was used in the drill for the sake of verisimilitude. The next responders on the scene were local law enforcement officers and emergency response personnel.
Deputy Chief John McCormick of the Daytona Beach Fire Department was present at the drill and described his department’s role in the drill. “Fire suppression units came in to assist with the airport crash trucks,” said McCormick. He added that the Daytona Beach Fire Department came to, “help deal with patients and any other kind of hazard.”
Though the firefighters have emergency medical training, they are not directly affiliated with the EMS. Deputy Chief McCormick stressed the importance of inter-agency cooperation. “An event this big needs multiple agencies to make it successful… one agency can’t handle an event like this.”
Chad Bullock, the Emergency Management Coordinator for Campus Safety and Security, described the goal of the first responders at the event “the main response is life, safety, and extinguishing the all the fires.” The responders at the event were all very professional and experienced. Steve Ward has, “actually done eight [airport drills]. This is my fourth one here, and I was invited to Orlando Sanford International Airport three times to observe and evaluate and then I was also involved with one at Brunswick Airport in Georgia a
few years ago.”
In addition to emergency response personnel, there were members of the Red Cross present. Ray Parkhurst, the Disaster Program Manager for Space Coast Chapter of the Red Cross, led the Red Cross contingent at the drill. This group was made up of 10 volunteers, who had received, “extensive training in the areas of specialty, wherever they decide to go into, like the logistics or the mass care, which is our sheltering.”
He continued, “We respond to these disasters; we’ll either provide canteening or we will actually help set up a Family and Friends Reunification for those affected by disasters… For this event, we are providing a canteening support for the first responders, so by that, we’ll be helping serve them lunches and things like that. In this case, the airlines aren’t participating, so we won’t be setting up a Family and Friends Reunification.”
The Red Cross also provides mental health help for affected peoples. Another group that provided mental health to the simulated victims of the exercise was the Florida Crisis Response (FCR) Team. Sue McIlrath was the leader of the group of representatives from the FCRT. “We are here for the victims, to defuse them from the incident. We’re also here for the survivors, who have lost someone in the accident, and also here for the first responders at the end of the incident,” she said, explaining the role of the FCRT at the event.
The FCR Team is a group of volunteers that is “made up of peers from all modalities,” as McIlrath explained. “We are all very well trained. We’ve all taken an extensive training in disaster relief, critical incident stress management; we use the Mitchell Method, the NOVA method, psychological first aid, depending on the incident. We are part of a national group. Some of us are part of the Florida Crisis Consortium, which is the state group that does the same thing.”
Since terrorism was suspected as a factor in the crash, the FBI was present, in the form of representatives. The first responders would most likely not know about the terrorist, in this situation. When asked about the reason for this, Chad Bullock, Emergency Management Coordinator for Campus Safety and Security, replied, “Our officers probably wouldn’t be involved with looking for any terrorist activity, because they may not even be aware of it; that would be communicated between ATC and aircraft, [the information] wouldn’t have the time to get passed on to our officers.” This information was eventually disseminated to the police, who arrested the suspected terrorist within a half hour of the crash.
At the end of the drill, all of the agencies and emergency personnel gathered for a “hotwash.” A hotwash is a discussion and evaluation of the agencies and emergency personnel’s’ actions during the emergency. Additionally, the evaluators, like Ward, “have an FAA form we fill out, and we’re going to use that form, myself and about a half a dozen other
people, and we’re going actually to do an evaluation of everything that goes on and then submit that to the airport… They do a debrief in about a week or two.”
At this debrief, the drill personnel will go over the events, looking for what went well and what did not. “There’s always little glitches, but they’ve never had a problem where it was a total failure, nor has any of the other airports I’ve gone to had any incidents or accidents or any problems,” attested Ward.
The next live drill at DAB will take place in 2019. For more information about DAB, visit their website at www.flydaytonafirst.com.