Simulation tests Canada airport's emergency planThe drill is an opportunity to evaluate how multiple agencies coordinate and respond to an aircraft incident or accident at ONT
By Liset Marquez
The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
ONTARIO, Canada — Bloodied passengers littering the runway and screaming for help gave emergency officials a first-hand view of what a Level 3 alert would look like at LA/Ontario International Airport on Wednesday morning.
The carnage was part of a full-scale exercise called Air Exercise, which simulated what would happen if a commercial jet taking off collided with a private plane crossing the runway. The two-hour, unrehearsed drill hasn't been done since 2009 and is designed to test the effectiveness of the airport's emergency plan.
"This ensures multi-jurisdictions work together and understand what they're suppose to do in an emergency," said Paul Greiner, airport superintendent of operations at ONT who helped plan Wednesday's exercise.
Officials at ONT, Greiner said, are proactive about how often they run the full-scale drill, holding them every other year as opposed to every three years which is required under Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
In order to get certification from the FAA, the airport not only has to run the drill but they will have to submit a report on the exercise, said Greiner who planned an emergency drill held in 2009.
Last May, airport officials had to respond to a real emergency -- landing of a United Sky West plane without a nose gear.
One of the other times an emergency was declared was in 1989 when a Southwest airplane destined to Burbank was having issues with the gear and was redirected to ONT because the airport has one of the longest runways in the region, Greiner said.
The drill is an opportunity to evaluate how multiple agencies coordinate and respond to an aircraft incident or accident at ONT, he said.
Typically, in an incident like Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board would take over as the lead agency. They would most likely investigate the scene for at least 7 days, Greiner said.
"We work with the agencies involved, before an actual accident occurs so we can work through any issue and it becomes second nature to them," said Harold Johnson, public information director for Los Angeles World Airports.
Taking part in the exercise was more than 100 first responders from a variety of agencies including ONT's Airport Rescue and Firefighting operations as well as Southwest Airlines representatives.
Kim Ellis, assistant general manager for ONT, said airport operations staff knew the details of the exercise but emergency responders were not told in advance.
Fire agencies from Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino Valley and Upland responded to the drill.
There were also more than 90 students from area colleges who played the role of the injured passengers, "victims."
Among the "victims," was 27-year-old Helen Caparelli, a Chaffey College student, was considered among the "walking wounded," only suffering second-degree burns to her upper torso.
Caparelli, who is studying to enter fire service, said the drill gave her a better insight on how to respond to emergencies. From a personal perspective, Caparelli said she also knows how to react in a real emergency.
"I know to have a sense of calm, they have it under control," the Ontario resident said.
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