A chance to test the readiness for an emergency at Hay River Merlyn Carter Airport will take place on Sept. 13.
The exercise is a regulatory requirement that has to take place every four years.
“The live emergency exercise gives you a chance to play your role,” said airport manager Elizabeth Harder. “It does give you a sense of confidence.”
Harder added practise makes perfect.
The airport manager said no announcement will be made on what the hypothetical emergency will be until the day of the exercise.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be an airplane,” she said. “It could be any kind of incident on airport property.”
Harder said the exercise will involve, along with airport personnel, the Town of Hay River, the RCMP, the fire department, the Hay River Regional Health Centre, airlines and various government departments. Plus, students will play the roles of casualties.
The exercise will be overseen by the Department of Infrastructure.
Delia Chesworth, the director of air, marine and safety with Infrastructure, said three or four representatives of the department will be at the airport for the exercise, and they will work with the airport manager and her staff.
“We have a regulatory requirement at all of our certified sites to undertake an emergency exercise once every four years,” said Chesworth, explaining that the GWNT owns and operates 27 airports – 20 of them certified airports, meaning they receive scheduled traffic.
“It’s an opportunity for everybody to practise their response to an emergency situation,” she said of the exercises. “We engage with the communities and the community agencies so that they also have an opportunity to test their own plans.”
Chesworth said such exercises give people in various organizations the chance to interact so if there was a real emergency they have good working relationships already developed.
“They are important firstly from the fact that we have to do them for regulatory purposes, but secondly because it does provide a good opportunity for us to work with the community,” she said.
Chesworth noted that, in advance of the exercise, the Department of Infrastructure offers two days worth of training with the local airport and the community agencies that will be responding to the hypothetical emergency.
“At the end of the exercise we will conduct a lessons-learned debrief type exercise with all of the agencies involved and they can all comment on their own response and areas for continuous improvement,” she said, adding that a written report will also be prepared and action items identified for follow up.
Harder said in addition to the emergency exercise every four years, the airport and other agencies go over emergency response plans every year during a tabletop exercise.