Emergency response exercise “Gemini” takes off at YVR

Photo of YVR emergency response exercise “Gemini”
Photo: Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver Airport Authority’s largest training initiative to date was held in the Spring, and involved more than 600 participants and 27 agencies including first responders, Airport Authority staff, business partners and social services along with representatives from E-Comm’s operations and communications departments.

The federally-mandated exercise tested first-responder processes and provided an opportunity to practise large-scale, integrated emergency response plans with partners and airport operations. The exercise scenario—titled “Gemini”—involved a commercial aircraft, carrying 134 passengers, landing on the runway and crashing into a private aircraft crossing the same runway. To provide as realistic a setting as possible for participating responders on the ground, aircraft wreckage was set on fire, and a “family and friends zone” was also set up to simulate the care and dissemination of information needed during an emergency of this magnitude.

“Emergency response exercises like these illustrate the important role first responders have in large-scale emergencies and also reiterates how crucial it is to be prepared and have a plan.”

Michele Hennessey,
E-Comm Team Manager

“Emergency response exercises like these illustrate the important role first responders have in large-scale emergencies and also reiterates how crucial it is to be prepared and have a plan,” explained E-Comm Team Manager Michele Hennessey. “Having the opportunity to work through a realistic disaster response scenario in collaboration with our partners was a great way to focus on inter-agency procedures and communications.”

Participating agencies utilized combined radio channels including a patch to the YVR channel when inter-agency discussion was required. This ensured all groups could communicate on a common channel and demonstrates the benefits of interoperable communication protocols in the event of a major incident.

E-Comm designated two dispatchers—one police, one fire—to the exercise and participated in the event while continuing to manage real emergency calls.

Reunification was a major focus of the exercise and dealt with the challenges of relaying information to the appropriate individuals, managing the influx of people at YVR and directing family and friends who were awaiting the arrival of loved ones. Emergency management personnel tested the patient tracking system and triaged patients to different locations. Canada Border Services also had the opportunity to obtain the manifest to process passengers on the international flight.

Communication departments from various agencies, including E-Comm, also participated in the exercise by issuing news bulletins and information updates through mock social media channels.

Emergency exercises are a key part of the Airport Authority’s Emergency Management Plan and are performed on a regular basis. Scenarios include live scenario training, table-top exercises and emergency simulation drills. The next full-scale exercise will be held in 2017.