Disaster drill tests emergency plan

At 1435hrs on 10th October, Air Traffic Control at Biggin Hill International Airport raised the alarm that a Dornier 328 Jet with 25 passengers and crew on board was heading towards Biggin Hill from Ibiza with reported undercarriage problems….

That set the stage for a full scale mock emergency exercise designed to hone the emergency services response in the immediate wake of an air disaster. Codenamed ‘Jubilee 2011’, the exercise – run in real time – was based on the aircraft reaching the airfield and landing, before the undercarriage collapses resulting in significant damage to the aircraft and a large undercarriage and engine fire. A mock aircraft was set ablaze and passengers and crew were made up with artificial blood and wounds to simulate burn and crash injuries. Three of the passengers were deceased, fourteen injured and eight uninjured.

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to test all members us in how to deal with a major incident”

As flames and smoke rose into the air emergency services raced to the scene, led by the LBH Airport Rescue and Fire Service, and the airfield was transformed into a hive of activity as the fire-fighting and rescue operation commenced. Whilst the burning aircraft was tackled, a command and control point, triage points and scene cordons were all established, press briefings prepared and a Survivor Reception Centre became operational.

As part of the exercise, observers were present throughout the exercise, evaluating every aspect of the response by all organisations.

Senior Airport Fire Officer Andy Mellers said: “I am delighted with the way in which our major exercise has been conducted this afternoon. This has been a fantastic opportunity to test all members of our staff in how to deal with a major aircraft incident whilst at the same time, complying with the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority, our regulatory body.

It really is very rewarding to see multi agencies working together in this way and on behalf of the management at London Biggin Hill Airport, I would like to thank all those who have participated today or those who have assisted me in planning the exercise from the start”.

Sergeant Katey Martin from Bromley Police said: “This full-scale, real-time simulation exercise gave us the opportunity to practice and refine our emergency procedures, to ensure a quick and effective response if required to attend such an incident in the future. We all found it really worthwhile and we will now turn our attention to things we feel could have been improved on”.

The organisations who participated in the exercise were the London Biggin Hill Airport Rescue and Fire Service, Metropolitan Police Service, London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service, Civil Aviation Authority, British Red Cross and Bromley Council.

Metropolitan Police Website