San Bernardino International Airport (SBD) successfully demonstrated its Airport Emergency Plan response by conducting a full-scale preparedness drill on Thursday, Feb. 25.

Complete with a simulated aircraft collision and people portraying injured passengers, the exercise was designed to test the readiness of airport personnel, first responders and coordinating mutual aid agencies for a real-life emergency. The drill, which is required every 36 months by the FAA, was assessed by official evaluators from neighboring airports and mutual aid agencies, who provided valuable feedback on the effectiveness of the airport’s emergency procedures.

The simulated response effort unfolded on a beautiful afternoon when a small drone lost signal and accidentally collided with an approaching Boeing 757 aircraft, causing an uncontrolled landing with significant damage to the aircraft, injuries and fatalities. The airport’s emergency plan was immediately initiated with personnel from multiple departments and agencies responding just as they would in a real-life aviation accident. Their effective and coordinated response, which was broadcast live, can be viewed online at youtube.com/watch?v=2aVfRNTVSmo&t=7s.

“At SBD, we take safety and security very seriously, and drills like this provide a critical stress-test of our emergency management systems,” said Mike Burrows, the airport’s chief executive officer. “I’d like to offer my personal thanks to everyone who participated in the exercise—and to our current and future emergency response professionals, thank you for keeping the airport and the community at large safe.”

Planning the drill to test the airport’s emergency plan took 6 months of collaboration between SBD personnel and mutual aid agencies like San Bernardino County Fire, who addressed both FAA-mandated criteria as well as safety concerns related to COVID.

On the day of the drill, numerous government representatives and officials safely gathered as observers. Kenny Halseth, San Bernardino County Fire battalion chief, said, “Everyone worked very well together, and things moved at a good pace. Had this been an actual emergency, I think we would have been able to get all of our patients off-scene quickly.”

Airport Manager Nikolas Persson agreed, stating, “Today’s drill went extraordinarily well. It was a great opportunity to work together with our mutual aid partners, and in doing so, we learned a lot and will implement any necessary changes into our plan.”

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