Mock Disaster at EIA

Pipestone Flyer

Edmonton International Airport (EIA) –  On the morning of Tuesday June 4, flames and dark smoke billowed in the cloudy skies above the Edmonton International Airport. Traffic slowed, necks were craned towards the disaster area; however, there was no need for any panic as this was an emergency response training exercise, a critical session that takes place at least once every two years at this airport.

    Edmonton Airports Fire Training Services operates a Mobile Aircraft Fire Trainer (MAFT) for both internal training and external training opportunities. The MAFT is a unique piece of training equipment, a jet simulator which is designed to meet the regulatory training requirements for EIA and other airport partners.

    The MAFT can be setup on any hard surface and prepared to provide live fire-training scenarios without damaging surface areas. It also uses propane, which provides a more environmentally friendly option to liquid fuel. 

    Airport officials want to reassure the flying public that this Airport management works diligently all year-round to ensure that all safety procedures are learned and applied. So, to prepare for the eventuality of an aircraft crash, it is important that all agencies involved practice so they know exactly what to do in that slim possibility. 

    Edmonton International Airport management offers us a view of a MAFT training exercise video and photos: to see additional press content, visit http://corporate.flyeia.com/emergency_response_services/maft.

    The general public might ask “What is the difference between fossil fuels and the MAFT…?” Quoting the Airport’s Communications statement, “the MAFT provides a live aircraft firefighting experience for airport, industrial, and municipal firefighters. Unlike the traditional method of open-pit burning with liquid fuels, it utilizes propane to simulate an actual event. In addition, the MAFT is environmentally friendly. Many open-pit training sites, on the other hand, can generate air, soil, and water pollutants that raise environmental and compliance issues, and many have been forced to cease operations. 

    The lack of live-fire training, however, could diminish ARFF crews’ readiness and compromise firefighter preparedness.” It is therefore critical that Airport Fire Services practise using a plane simulator so that their training can be the most effective it can be.

    Using the MAFT rather than a fixed facility reduces costs, as it allows training during normal working hours, rather than having to interrupt workers’ duties to transport them to an off-site training facility, causing overtime and backfill overtime hours while the staff is away. The propane used in the MAFT, compared to liquid fuel, along with reduced fuel flow rates and the use of less extinguishing agents, provide savings all around. Airport officials state that “this exercise meets the regulatory ARFF requirements, impacting different budgets in a one stop shop solution” and also meets the complex Emergency Preparedness training requirements.

    EIA Fire Services Chief Burl Hamm confirms that “this exercise is necessary to our procedure implementation, and we do it evey second year: we have hosted it at the Leduc Recreation Centre, at the CN railway crossings and of course right here at EIA (International Airport).”

    On a very windy morning, under blue skies and thin clouds, fire was set to the MAFT, a simulator looking like an aircraft. With flames shooting from several spots on the ground and smoke billowing from the fuselage, a couple dozen ‘passengers’ run across the smoke from one side of the ‘mock’ aircraft to the other: they lay on the ground, having familiarized themselves with the contents of a card that is attached to a lanyard hanging from each passenger’s neck that describes the nature and severity of their mock injuries.. 

These passengers are in fact Drama Class students of Leduc Composite High school: with the ongoing support of their drama teacher, Mr. Jim Nahrebeski, the youths play their part well: sitting or laying on the ground, they answer the EMT’s questions with precise answers that describe their ‘injuries”: a sore back, a broken arm, an unconscious youth… Triage is done quickly and effectively, and the youths are taken to a waiting ambulance or to a commuter bus, to be taken to a de-briefing session inside the terminal, or to a nearby hospital.

EIA’s Fire Services’ Chief Burl Hamm explains that this is a ‘simulated incident” involving a World Ways Airlines’ passenger jet : while on a direct flight from Hong Kong to Detroit, the cabin crew faces a violent passenger, and the Air Marshall places him under arrest. The captain asks to get the plane detoured to Edmonton. The plane lands safely, but the driver of a fueling truck has a heart attack, loses control of his truck, and it crashes into a side of the aircraft, where it explodes. The flames spread to the nearby terminal, and Leduc County Fire Department is also on the scene,‘handling’ that situation with a sizeable crew of firefighting trucks, personnel and equipment.

    Mr. Nahrebeski is the teacher whose twenty-five Drama students perform well in that drama re-enactment. Mr N. shares that in his 25 years at the school, he has involved his drama students in approximately twenty mock disasters. He feels that this is an excellent ‘exercise’ to create in the youths a sense of responsibility and an awareness of all the agencies that respond to such a disaster. Approaching the youths, this writer detects an excitement and a pride at having helped the community in this way. A youth adds that the EMTs were very caring, and that this out-of-school experience has been fun and interesting.

    The crazy winds that day could have been a critical factor in a real crash, but in this mock disaster, every detail has been looked after by the Airport Fire Services Chief and his Fire Crew. Keeping our community and the Airport safe was the main goal of this training exercise, and it seems that this goal has been accomplished!