LAX Practices Emergency Response in Simulated Aircraft Disaster
Over 700 people will participate in a full-scale, simulated aircraft disaster that will test the capability of Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) emergency management system. The LAX Air Exercise (AirEx) will be staged today from noon to 3 p.m. on the restricted airfield adjacent to the LAX Imperial Terminal/Flight Path Learning Center, 6661 West Imperial Highway. The LAX Air Exercise will test emergency responders and mutual aid providers in a real-time, stress-filled environment in which personnel, equipment and other resources are mobilized and deployed.
With more than 700 participants — including 200 volunteers playing mock “victims” and “family members” — this LAX air exercise is considered to be one of the largest full-scale drills among all U.S. airports. More than 20 organizations will participate, including the Los Angeles Fire Department; several Los Angeles World Airports divisions (LAX Airfield Operations, LAX Airport Police, Construction & Maintenance, Public Relations, Risk Management and Emergency Preparedness); El Segundo and Los Angeles Police Departments; federal aviation and law enforcement agencies (Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Bureau of Investigation); American Red Cross; United Airlines and LAN Airlines; Los Angeles County departments (Emergency Preparedness and Mental Health); local hospital emergency rooms, medical units and ambulance services; and other mutual aid organizations. Operations staffs from airports throughout Southern California and from international airlines are also expected to attend as observers.
Jens Rivera, LAX Airport Manager, said, “This air exercise gives individuals and agencies the opportunity to practice and refine their emergency procedures. Our response agencies train continuously in their own specialized fields and we train airport-wide during table-top exercises. This full-scale, real-time simulation provides necessary hands-on experience to maximize the effectiveness of our emergency response. Should an aircraft disaster occur at LAX, this training will enhance our responders’ ability to integrate quickly in a unified effort to save lives, fight fire, contain hazards, preserve evidence, assist victims’ families, inform the public, and begin an investigation.”
Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Antoine McKnight said, “Due to heightened homeland security awareness, the public has an expectation that emergency service providers will respond to major incidents in a professional and coordinated effort, providing for immediate care in any instances that will threaten and endanger their lives.” He added, “LAX AirEx 2007 provides an opportunity for the LAFD and other agencies to refine their operations working under a unified command structure.”
The objectives of LAX AirEx 2007 include testing the efficiency of inter-agency and inter-departmental planning and coordination in managing an airport disaster; testing current procedures of the Airport Emergency Plan using responses under a unified command and satisfying federal requirements; and determining strengths and weaknesses in the integration of response resources with the goal toward improving individual agency and overall emergency response.
Federal aviation regulations require all commercial U.S. airports to conduct a full-scale exercise at least once every three years. LAX officials regularly conduct such exercises using various emergency scenarios that may occur.
Today’s LAX AirEx 2007 simulation involves a Boeing 747 aircraft, call sign AirEx 1, approximately 12 miles out on approach to LAX that experiences failed hydraulic systems. This failure results in the right main gear being unable to extend for landing. The pilot declares an emergency and the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower activates emergency procedures. Upon landing, the aircraft veers north off the runway into the excavation for the new southside center taxiway. The gear collapses and the aircraft breaks into three pieces, causing catastrophic structural damage, as well as a fire explosion. Besides many fatalities, there is widespread panic and injuries among survivors.
The on-airfield scene will include a static B-747 aircraft, a large “debris field” of aircraft parts, a pyrotechnic display to simulate explosion and fire, 200 “mock victims” in make-up (moulage) appropriate to their assigned medical condition, fire and law enforcement responders, medical triage, ambulance and helicopter transport of “victims,” hazard containment, etc. Inside the LAX Imperial Terminal/Flight Path Learning Center, centers will be established for airlines, mutual aid organizations, and public information officers to conduct their respective responses.