Whatever form they take, industry veterans have long preached the value and importance of simulated disaster drills as one method to prepare for an emergency and as a tool to familiarize relevant personnel with the process of applying a written emergency plan to a real-life incident.
Typically, these drills are conducted as table top exercises. Emergency response personnel ranging from the air boss and announcer to medical personnel and fire and police department representatives gather in a meeting room and talk through their response to hypothetical emergencies in real time, as though it is air show weekend and they are each executing their responses to a specific accident that has just taken place on or near the airport grounds. During a single table top exercise, appropriate personnel might simulate two or three different emergencies…from something as small as a windstorm that makes a mess of the ramp with only minor injuries to something as large as a mid-air aircraft collision with multiple fatalities among pilots and spectators.
These types of table top exercises give immediacy and relevance to the emergency response document that might otherwise serve principally as a dust-collector on somebody’s bookshelf. It is best that they be conducted four to six weeks before the show so that a) the details of the emergency response plan are in place and b) there is time to adjust/revise if issues come up during the table top. Table top exercises conducted more than six weeks before the show are often dealing with emergency plan details that have not yet been resolved (which takes away from much of the value of the exercise) and, at show time, the lessons learned and training received from the table top exercise are not as fresh in everybody’s minds.
As part of their preparation for the Warriors over the Wasatch Open House at Hill Air Force Base in Utah on May 26 and 27, show organizers conducted an even more ambitious emergency preparedness drill that was conducted on the ramp and included simulated victims with simulated injuries. (Click here to see a television news report on the accident drill.) These types of mock crashes provide even more immediacy and relevance to the details of the written emergency plan. Whether conducted on a military base or at a civilian airport, an air show accident drill can also serve as training for all base/airport/city/county emergency response personnel and, thereby, be eligible for funding from outside the air show budget.