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Norman Manley Airport to stage full-scale emergency exercise

Published:Friday | February 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Police guard the wreckage of American Airlines flight 331, near the seaside above the Port Royal main road in Kingston, before it was moved to a hangar at the Norman Manley International Airport in December 2009. - FILE

Going to be at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) on Thursday, April 18? Don't worry, those flames you'll be seeing are not an actual crash.

That's because the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) and the NMIA will conduct a full-scale emergency exercise (FSX) on the east field of the airport. The FSX will seek to evaluate the actions of various players in the industry against current response plans and capabilities for an aircraft accident with mass casualties and unlawful interference to aviation response.

Alfred McDonald, senior director of commercial development and planning at AAJ, noted that accidents and incidents at airports, even in Jamaica, are a reality. He noted the unfortunate American Airlines crash at NMIA in December 2009 and the Stephen Fray hijack attempt in March of the same year at MoBay's Sangster International Airport as two recent examples.

A gamut of stakeholders, including airline executives, emergency service technicians and law-enforcement officers, met on Thursday at the second planning meeting. Exercise Director Ludolph McLaughlin said approximately 40 agencies would be involved in the final product. The exercise will start at 7:45 a.m. and is scheduled to last six hours or until it is determined that the objectives have been met.

Actual emergency takes priority

"Unless there is a hurricane, unless there is an earthquake, we will have the exercise," he said. He stressed though that any actual emergency on the day would take priority. McLaughlin said the exercise would replicate 'real world' conditions and situations. The FSX will receive support from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, another attempt to make the reactions of the 'victims' as realistic as possible. Students from Donald Quarrie High and Windward Road Primary have been recruited to play the specific roles of victims or bystanders.

These groups will have their training on April 12 while the persons selected to evaluate the exercise will be trained on April 10. Selected observers must report for briefing on April 16, and McLaughlin said they would be barred from participating on the day of the exercise if they failed to do so.

The final planning meeting for the FSX will take place on March 21, where the completed Exercise Plan will be presented. McLaughlin said final preparations for the exercise area are being done.