East Hawaii News

Hilo Airport Conducts Emergency Response Drill

October 26, 2019, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated October 26, 7:24 AM
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Officials held an emergency response drill at Hilo International Airport early Friday as part of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.

The ITO Triennial Exercise 2019 was designed to establish a learning environment for the various emergency response teams to exercise their plans and procedures for responding to an aircraft incident.

The mock scenario went as follows: At 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, 2019, two Black Hawk UH60s with four SOB on each aircraft were participating in an air show at Hilo Airport. One Black Hawk experienced engine failure causing a collision of the aircraft, which crashed in a crowd of people who were attending the show. Approximately 60 people were injured, and an unknown number of casualties were reported. Air Traffic Control notified Hilo Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting personnel via a hotline to respond. Hilo airport personnel and the Army National Guard Aviation Department executed respective airport emergency plans.

The drill included a decomp tent, to decontaminate the victims. During aircraft accidents, there is often fuel leakage.

Justin Musselman, Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Captain, said as patients began to build up at the decomp tent, the decision was made to have CERT come in and triage victims.

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Following decomp, victims were sorted by medical necessity for transfer to the hospital and placed in either a green, yellow or red tent.

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Red means immediate, yellow is delayed and green means no need for transfer.

Chris Crabtree, team commander for the Hawai‘i Disaster Medical Assistance Team, said something like this actually happened on Hawai‘i Island, this team would arrive within an hour and a half to two hours, given the almost-hour flight from O‘ahu.

Crabtree said HDMA has two missions — to sustain and hold the red triage victims due to the limited number of ambulances transporting patients to Hilo Medical Center.

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“We have the C-130 that is configured, and we would load as many as we can get on there and send them with our team to O‘ahu,” explained Crabtree. “This is a training opportunity for people, for example with training on the triage tag.”

He said the C-130 can hold about 30 critical patients and their medical providers.

The exercise is a mandatory certification requirement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which tests airfield disaster preparedness and response by simulating a full-scale aircraft emergency disaster. The exercise tests and evaluates the operational capacity of emergency response in a stress environment. The exercise is accomplished every three years.

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