Military News

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fairchild, Spokane first responders participate in joint exercise

by Airman 1st Class Taylor Bourgeous
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


9/18/2015 - SPOKANE, Wash. -- Fairchild Air Force Base Airmen worked together with Spokane County emergency response agencies during a
Major Accident Response Exercise that involved a simulated crash of a KC-135 Stratotanker Sept. 15, at Riverside State Park in Spokane, Washington.

The exercise kicked off Tuesday morning when the FAFB air traffic control tower received a mock distress call from the incoming aircraft stating it lost power to all four engines due to multiple bird strikes and was going down. Shortly after the fake distress call, the tower lost all radio contact with the aircraft.

More than 25 first responders from Fairchild and Spokane County arrived at the simulated crash site, including the Spokane County Sheriff's Department, Spokane Fire Department and Fairchild's Fire Department, Security Forces, Medical, Safety, Public Affairs, and Bioenvironmental teams. The "accident scene" consisted of actual aircraft parts, medical dummies and other real and simulated debris that would likely be encountered at an aircraft crash site.

Once on scene, on and off base agencies worked together to ensure they were communicating and integrating effectively and were in compliance with all inspection checklists.

"There are just a lot of things, training-wise, that we're doing together," said Kimo Kuheana, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron fire chief.  "It's just huge overall for Spokane County. We have better responders now."

In a real-world aircraft crash scenario, the incident commanders would have to work together to contain any fires, cordon off the crash site and keep all civilians and media out of the immediate area. In addition to controlling all of these factors they would have to make sure not to disturb any of the aircraft debris and protect any human remains.

A mutual aid agreement exists between the base and local community that allows Air Force resources to be used to assist with off-base incidents when local response capabilities are either overwhelmed or don't exist, such as the recent HAZMAT response at Pacific Steel in Spokane.

"They've got resources we simply just don't have," said Brian Schaeffer, District 9 Assistant Fire Chief. "Within the last couple of years, especially with the leadership that is out at Fairchild now, the willingness to go off base and be a part of the community with emergency resources is unsurpassed."

For the past two years, Fairchild has been working with local emergency responders during monthly training as part of the mutual aid agreement. Having these agencies working side by side allows for quicker response and higher probability of saving lives and protecting property.

"All agencies worked well together," said Master Sgt. Joel Jones, 92nd Air Refueling Wing flight safety superintendent. "It is always a great experience when we can pull all of the base and local emergency services together for a joint exercise."

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