Mock plane crash held at SFO

Exercises stress need for fire, paramedics, airlines to work seamlessly in emergencies

Throngs of first-responders surrounded a downed plane at San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday, working together to put out a fire and triage dozens of bruised and bloody passengers.

The “plane” in question, however, was an ancient Boeing 727 parked on the taxiway, the “fire” was a series of smoke bombs and the “passengers” were Terra Nova High School students participating in an airport drill designed to streamline a disaster plan that emergency personnel hope they’ll never have to use.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial airports to conduct such full-scale drills every three years, but SFO performs the drill annually.

“Safety and security are the cornerstones of everything we do at San Francisco International Airport,” airport director John Martin said.

More than 20 agencies participated in the effort, including several local fire departments, the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, among others.

Firefighters put out the “fire” billowing from the plane and took to the gory task of removing injured passengers — those who bore green labels were considered walking wounded and loaded on a waiting SamTrans bus.

Passengers who were marked with yellow and red labels were loaded onto waiting ambulances meant for local hospitals and trauma centers.

Mike Mendenhall, drill evaluator and operations manager for the San Mateo County American Medical Response, said he looks for well-coordinated operations where everyone is clear on their responsibilities and works as a team.

Communication remains one of the biggest challenges, because several of the responding agencies communicate on different radio frequencies.

Continental Airlines operations supervisor Lopaka Amantiad said passing on information is one of the most important parts of his job — alerting local hospitals of each incoming passenger’s name and notifying Continental headquarters of where they were taken for treatment.

The annual exercise is especially important in making sure the San Francisco Fire Department — considered a relatively young department because it has had many retirements recently — knows what San Mateo County emergency responders are doing and vice-versa, Capt. David Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that every time the agencies fine-tune their response, their overall efforts become more efficient.

“You can be as prepared as you can, and you’re always learning to improve,” Sullivan said.

tramroop@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police officers speak with people while responding to a call outside a market on Leavenworth Street in the Tenderloin on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SFPD makes the case for more officers, citing Walgreens video

Most of us have seen the video. It shows a man filling… Continue reading

A 14-Mission Muni bus heads down Mission Street near Yerba Buena Gardens. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Pandemic experiments morph into long-term solutions for SF transit agency

The streets of San Francisco became real-time laboratories for The City’s public… Continue reading

NO CONNECTION TO SERVER:
Unable to connect to GPS server ‘blackpress.newsengin.com’
Debate reignites over San Francisco’s first public bank

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Apprenticeship instructor Mike Miller, center, demonstrates how to set up a theodolite, a hyper-sensitive angle measuring device, for apprentices Daniel Rivas, left, Ivan Aguilar, right, and Quetzalcoatl Orta, far right, at the Ironworkers Local Union 377 training center in Benicia on June 10, 2021. (Courtesy Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters)
California’s affordable housing crisis: Are labor union requirements in the way?

By Manuela Tobias CalMatters California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed spoke at the reopening of the San Francisco Public Library main branch on April 20. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to The Examiner)
SF reopening more libraries through the summer

After a handful of San Francisco public libraries reopened last month for… Continue reading

Most Read