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Apr 27, 2000

Air crash simulation leads “Big Blow”

Story Picture
It has all the ingredients of a made-for-tv disaster movie: a hurricane is rapidly approaching the coast, the populace prepares for the worst. Then literally out of the blue an airliner drops out of the sky, leaving dozens of dead and wounded in its wake. The major difference between today’s disaster simulation, code-named “Big Blow”, and the movies is that the Hollywood version has more drama…and a happier ending.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

The simulation exercise of a plane crash took place on the airport road. Traffic was temporarily stopped as the Airport Fire Service quickly extinguished the flames and rendered aid to the casualties.

(Kids screaming for help)

The crash was part of the operation “Big Blow” launched by the National Emergency Response Organization. The exercise is being held to see just how well prepared NEMO and essential organizations are in times of disaster. The crash occurred as the country is being threatened by the fictious hurricane Illene.

Efrain Gomez, Chief Civil Aviation Officer

“Certainly the response was quite quick from the Airport Authority. They were here before I arrived. I guess I got the message after they had received the call; I came long before traffic was already here. Definitely I would say the airport had a very good response to come here. I saw no fire, there was supposed to be fire and it was only some smoke because of the tyres, but it was out quickly and I think that that part of the exercise, the response was good.”

However not all parties got high marks for their performance. The biggest disaster at the scene was the way the exercise was managed. There was a slow response to get the injured to the hospital and there was a lack of security. The media had free run of the area and we were able to walk among the injured taking pictures and even stopping to interview the passengers. It was not until sometime later a security guard came over to us and asked the crew to leave the immediate area.

Efrain Gomez

“I think that was obvious, there was not too much security, not even the barricading of the area. That apparently was some deficiency in this exercise, that even if the road was used as such instead of probably using…we anticipated in our meeting before that we were gonna you that building over there, but that was not used.”

This created some problems with traffic control. Whether there was a lack of communication or not, once the fire was out, vehicles were allowed to pass through even though the casualties remained on stretchers on the road. There was no immediate police presence and by the time they arrived on the scene, the exercise had been completed. Following the simulation, News Five tried to get a comment from NEMO but was told by a staff member who was working at the site that she could not assist us as we had to get our information from Belmopan.

(Kids screaming)

Despite the heat of the day the children who played the role of passengers did perform well. Evan Kerr and Felecia Estell told us what they had to do and why they decided to take part in the exercise.

Felecia Estell

“Because I think it would be very good for me to be in it, because it lets you learn how to be prepared for something like that.”

Evan Kerr

“Just play like I have broken limbs.”

Jacqueline Woods

“And cry out for help?”

Evan Kerr

“Yes.”

The Airport Fire Service also received high marks for their quick response.

Luis Blake, Airport Fire Service

“We are strictly for the fire fighting and doing to first responding of the casualties until the paramedics come. What we have in our favour is that we had three paramedics on our team that was out here assessing and when the paramedics came they just took over there.”

As a result of the crash simulation exercise, most agreed that as the hurricane season fast approaches, more work needs to be done.

Aside from the airport disaster, journalists were also invited to observe NEMO’s operations in Belmopan. Hurricane Illene is supposed to make landfall sometime this weekend.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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