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Mock disaster tests emergency response time at Calgary International Airport

The airport partnered with first responders to host an emergency training exercise at the YYC Calgary International Airport on Thursday

The Calgary Airport Authority held a full-scale mock emergency at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday as a part of a training exercise.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

The Calgary Airport Authority held a full-scale mock emergency at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday as a part of a training exercise.

Flames erupted on the tarmac of YYC Calgary International Airport on Thursday morning as wounded passengers fled the burning remains of Vega Airlines Flight 123.

But, luckily, the scene was just a test.

The fictional Vega Airlines aircraft was full of volunteers posing as trauma victims, and the blaze was carefully crafted for a full-scale mock emergency response training exercise.

“Today’s really about practice,” said Jody Moseley, Calgary Airport Authority. “It’s really an opportunity to take well-established procedures that we have and work with our partners to make sure that everything works well – but, I think more importantly, what’s not working well and what are the improvements that we need to make to make sure we’re ready for any situation.”

The mock emergency took months to plan, and Moseley said the airport authority is required to run the full-scale trial every year.

Multiple government and support agencies participated, including the Calgary Fire Department (CFD), Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Calgary Police Service (CPS). None of the responders knew what would happen in the exercise to ensure that all partners are prepared for any situation.

“We look to try to make sure that the scenarios are never the same, because the incidents at the airport are never the same,” said Moseley.

This year, the scenario involved a jet-fuel leak and subsequent fire during take-off. The CFD was on scene within a minute of the fire and EMS arrived shortly after to treat burn victims and address the casualties.

EMS Spokesperson Stuart Brideaux said the exercise is a way for first responders to test themselves, as well as the communication between all the partners involved to make sure all travellers and employees are safe.

“It’s an opportunity to try and apply a sort of a command structure, or bring some organization to what can otherwise be a very disorganized or almost chaotic event,” said Brideaux.

“We need to work with the partner agencies to make this successful, not only from an EMS perspective being in a pre-hospital environment, we also have to factor into how this relates to the health care system in the hospitals as well.”

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