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SLO Airport disaster drill tests and prepares first responders for actual emergency

SLO Airport Disaster Drill
A fire engine takes part in a mass casualty drill at SLO County Airport on May 15, 2024. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - The San Luis Obispo County Airport held a mass casualty drill Wednesday morning in an effort to test and prepare local first responders and emergency agencies for a potential future disaster.

"The SLO County Airport conducted our tri-annual full scale emergency exercise," said Courtney Pene, San Luis Obispo County Airport Planning and Outreach Deputy Director. "That's really to test the readiness and preparation of our team and all airport stakeholders." 

Over the course of about two hours, various local agencies, including CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo County, San Luis Obispo County Office of Emergency Services, San Luis Obispo City Fire Department, San Luis Ambulance, CALSTAR, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office, and several others went through a simulated airline emergency on a closed runway.

A bus stood in for a downed aircraft, while several volunteers imitated as injured passengers.

"The scene we simulated today was an alert three category three, one of our commercial airliners, that had went down, within the controlled area of the airfield at San Luis Airport," said Chad Fleming, CAL FIRE SLO County South Coast Battalion Chief. "We had a simulated aircraft. We had a we had a fire prop. We had a hazardous materials prop and we had 54 victims that were on the ground that needed care, treatment and transport to local facilities."

The disaster training is required every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"It is definitely a multi-agency collaborative effort," said Fleming. "As much as we train, as much as we practice, as much as we work in the field, there are always things to learn, and training opportunities like this are invaluable. From this comes learning points, comes additional training, to improve our customer service and service delivery, with the communities and citizens of the County of San Luis Obispo.

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Dave Alley

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