LAX Holds Disaster Exercise

Disaster exercise tests inter-agency communications and response in theoretical plane crash


A full-scale, simulated aircraft disaster was conducted on May 15 to test the capability of Los Angeles International Airport's emergency management system. The LAX Air Exercise tested 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 victims and family members -- this exercise is considered one of the largest full-scale drills among all U.S. airports, organizers said. More than 20 organizations participated, 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.

"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," said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Antoine McKnight. "LAX AirEx 2007 provides an opportunity for the LAFD and other agencies to refine their operations working under a unified command structure."

LAX Airport Manager Jens Rivera 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."

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 AirEx 2007 simulation involved 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 south side 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 included 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 appropriate to their assigned medical condition, fire and law enforcement responders, medical triage, ambulance and helicopter transport of victims, and hazard containment. Inside the LAX Imperial Terminal/Flight Path Learning Center, centers were established for airlines, mutual-aid organizations, and public information officers to conduct their respective responses.

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