In accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards, the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) conducted a full scale emergency drill at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), on Wednesday, September 24, 2008.
For the exercise, the LPIA Emergency Procedure and Contingency Plan was used as a guide to activate all available resources as in the event of an actual disaster. The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was activated as part of the exercise.
The emergency drill took place on one of the airfields of the airport, and one of the runways was closed for the exercise. There was no other impact to operations at the airport.
NAD’s Vice President (Operations) Lori Chambers said the focus of a previous emergency exercise conducted by the Airport Authority was a plane crash. For this exercise, a similar situation was chosen to discern whether adjustments to fix any weaknesses were successful.
Ms. Chambers also explained that a decision was made to allow the media just outside the restricted area to observe how the relevant agencies respond to an emergency.
The scenario this time involved the crashing of a Dash 8 Raven Air flight 168 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Nassau.
According to information supplied to the media, at about 9:50 a.m., Air Traffic Control received information from the pilot stating that the aircraft’s right engine had lost power.
He explained that the flight was 20 miles away with 43 passengers and four crew members on board with approximately 1,200 gallons of fuel and that he was declaring an emergency landing.
Then about 10:07 a.m., the aircraft landed on runway 09 and veered onto its shoulders coming to a stop and instantly bursting into flames. Passengers and crew were observed exiting the airplane.
Additional information revealed that 15 persons died, 17 received serious injuries and the remaining persons received minor injuries; there were three US citizens and four Haitian national onboard.
Ms. Chambers said while IACO mandates that emergency drills be carried out every two years, the goal at LPIA is to have some type of drill every year.
The emergency exercises are not audited individually by ICAO. However, she said, when ICAO performs a general audit of LPIA, the body takes into account all of the procedures the airport has in cases of emergency.
The exercises, therefore, allow the emergency action plans of the various agencies to be continuously monitored, updated and perfected, she added.
“We test scenarios monthly just not to the extent we have today,” Ms. Chambers explained. “We literally do them around a table.”
All of the agencies are represented and they go through various scenarios and discuss how each should be handled, she said.
She also explained the importance of having actual drills.
“It is really important to allow us an opportunity, in a controlled setting, to test our emergency response capabilities.
“We always want to do it when it is not an emergency so you know when the actual emergency happens you are ready to go.”
Ms. Chambers added that it is essential to have all of the relevant agencies on one accord in the case of an emergency.
Some of the agencies that participated in the drill were Princess Margaret and Doctor’s Hospitals, the Lyford Cay Hospital, the Fire Department, the Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Forces.
Throughout the whole exercise the EOC communicated to personnel at the site using secured communications channels to ensure everything necessary at the stage site.
A timeline was kept of the arrival of each of the emergency responders, but actual times could not be verified until after a debriefing period when all of the information was gathered and examined.
However, there were some little areas that Ms. Chambers noted needed some adjusting.
“I think, generally speaking, you will always find things you would like to do better, and I am sure that, as crews went through, they experienced challenges; but we will not know specifically until we do a hot debriefing after the exercise is complete.”