A multi-agency mass-casualty drill carried out Wednesday showed that the City of Kodiak lacks personnel resources when performing response, rescue and recovery missions during potential aircraft collisions, said Phil Smith, Kodiak Airport Foreman.
This drill happens every three years and is a requirement for Part 139 airports to keep their certification, Smith said.
A number of agencies and organizations were involved in the drill, including the Coast Guard Kodiak Fire Station, the Kodiak City Fire Station, Alaska State Troopers, airport staff, Rockmore King Clinic, Providence Hospital, Ravn Air, Alaska Airlines, SERCO Air Traffic Control, military police and various community members, he said.
Although the rescue, recovery and response operation was successful, the number of victims that Kodiak emergency responders can help is limited, if there were to be a full-scale aircraft crash, Smith said.
“We have a limited medical staff here (in Kodiak). Probably the biggest thing is the hospital doesn’t have near as many beds or doctors as in Anchorage,” Smith said.
Despite this challenge, Kodiak has a great resource in the Coast Guard, which can quickly fly victims to Anchorage to receive medical care, he said.
The agencies involved in the drill played out a scenario where a helicopter crashed into a Boeing-737, causing a fire in the helicopter, and leading to injured victims and casualties.
During the exercise, a Coast Guard mockup of a C130-J helicopter was used to mimic a Boeing-737 because both aircraft have similar sizes and weight capacities, Smith said.
Propane was used to create a controlled fire in the mock helicopter, and volunteers were placed on scene dressed in used clothes and stage makeup to act as victims with mild to severe injuries such as broken bones and internal bleeding.
Volunteers and traffic cones were used to represent casualties from the accident, Smith said.
After the collision, the air traffic control tower received a call to report that there had been a crash, and the responders went into “rescue mode,” he said.
During rescue mode, air traffic control personnel notified the Coast Guard, the Kodiak City Fire Department and agents from the Alaska Department of Transportation. Once on scene, those agencies decide who to call if more help is needed.
When medics arrived on scene they set up a triage and helped the more seriously wounded victims first, Smith said.
They were transported to either the Coast Guard’s Rockmore Clinic or Providence hospital.
To pull off the drill, eight medics and two ambulances from the Kodiak City Fire Department participated and dealt with the medical side of the operation, said Kodiak City Fire Chief James Mullican.
The whole operation took approximately three hours from when the mock accident occurred, to when the victims were taken to the various medical centers and treated, said Leexan Data, a Ravn Air airport manager who volunteered to play a victim.
From start to finish, the fire was out and rescues were starting to be made within 15 minutes, Smith said. Responders “were on scene within three minutes.”
As a foreman at the airport, Smith oversaw the operation and offered recommendations of what to improve, though this year the event ran smoothly and he said he did not have any recommendations.
“The communications were excellent. Everybody was on task as far as knowing what their jobs are. The Coast Guard (Base) Fire (Department) was great on the operations side, DOT did great on the airport side, good security. Everybody knew their job. (The drill) went really well,” Smith said.
At the end of each drill, representatives from each agency involved hold a meeting to discuss what went well during the exercise and what needs improvement. They examine and analyze how well the groups communicated, if the responders knew where to report, if the equipment worked properly and how many responders arrived on scene.
Despite there not being enough personnel or space in Kodiak’s medical facilities, the emergency responders that are available in Kodiak are well-prepared, Smith said.
“We feel confident that during any kind of an incident, it would be a very fast response (with) an overwhelming number of people involved with the rescue,” he said.