A mock airplane crash at Kelowna Airport saw first responders conduct a search and rescue, helping injured passengers exit the plane. (Photo - Daniel Taylor)

Kelowna International Airport conducts mock emergency exercise

The live exercise included emergency personnel from 40 agencies

Kelowna International Airport conducted a mock airplane crash to test its emergency preparedness Thursday morning.

The simulation, called Exercise-Integrate, was done in real-time and is a part of a federal mandate that requires emergency response testing to be done every three years. Forty organizations participated in the exercise.

The simulation saw emergency crews rush to the scene of an airplane that had hit a flock of birds during take-off, causing the engine to catch on fire and subsequently crash-land back at the airport, injuring and killing some passengers on board.

Sam Samaddar, airport director for Kelowna International Airport, said the simulation is critical for being prepared for the unexpected.

“We build on these exercises to build success because obviously, we don’t ever want something like this to happen. They very rarely do occur but in the event that we have an emergency situation we have tested our plan with our agency partners and are able to respond in a positive way.”

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When the simulation began uninjured passengers walked out from the plain while injured and deceased passengers stayed on board. First-responders then arrived on the scene, put out the fire and began a search and rescue.

Volunteers from the city of Kelowna played the part of the patients, wearing tags to identify their condition, makeup to fake their injuries and were acted as if they were in distress.

The more injured patients were carried or stretchered into ambulances that arrived on scene. The other patients were taken to ambulances by foot with the aid of paramedics.

Patients who were not injured were escorted by the mock-airline officials to a room where they could meet with family and friends, while the tags of the injured and the deceased were driven to the hospital to continue the simulation for the doctors dealing with mass casualty acceptance at the hospital, which is referred to as a code orange.

Airport operational and readiness manager Jeffrey Carlyle said it takes every organization working together to deal with the emergency correctly.

“The airport firefighters integrated with the Kelowna firefighters and incident commanders worked with the RCMP,” said Carlyle.

“It just shows how we all understand the preservation of life and to reduce the effects of the injuries that they (passengers) sustained. We all work together. It’s like an orchestra playing Beethoven. It takes every piece of that orchestra to do it right and what we saw today was the orchestra coming together to resolve the situation.”

The next airplane simulation will occur in three years and will be different. Three years ago, the airport simulated an active terrorist shooter aboard an aircraft.

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