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George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Conducts Full-Scale Emergency Drill

Houston Airport System
October 4, 2010

© Houston Airport System
The FAA mandates that a full-scale emergency drill is conducted every three years.

Hundreds of emergency responders, airport employees, and local volunteers gathered on Saturday, October 2, at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) for a reality check on how well the airport is equipped to handle a plane crash.

The purpose of the emergency exercise was to test, evaluate and improve the airport’s operational capabilities and its emergency management system under a strenuous environment.

Results from the full-scale emergency drill will be assessed at a later date and utilized to strengthen Intercontinental’s emergency response efforts and strategies.

“What happens in a crisis requires fast action and if there were ever an emergency involving an aircraft on the airfield here in Houston, we are demonstrating that we have the capabilities and the people to make a difference,” says Mario C. Diaz, director of aviation for the fourth largest airport system in the United States. “It is only during a drill that we can review the strengths and identify any weakness that needs to be addressed before a crisis actually occurs.”

The primary emergency responder for an air disaster for Intercontinental Airport is the Houston Fire Department, which houses three fire stations on the property for Intercontinental Airport.

Other supporting agencies include the Houston Police Department, numerous mutual aid responders, and federal agencies. Houston’s emergency responders will use this opportunity to ensure that everyone is prepared for any air disasters.

Area hospitals were ready to accept as many as 100 mock victims who played the role of individuals pre-assigned with random injuries – ranging from minor wounds and lacerations, to severe conditions and some with fatal wounds. The “victims” were transported to area hospitals for further evaluation and treatment.

Intercontinental’s on-airport Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) teams must be able to get their first vehicle to the midpoint of the farthest runway within three minutes of an alarm. All other vehicles must reach that same point within four minutes of the alarm.

“The full-scale practice emergency drills allow airport operations to evaluate processes and procedures, which in turn highlights our strengths and areas for improvement,” says Diaz. “This knowledge is essential to improving emergency response.”

The full-scale drill is a federal mandate by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at all U.S. airports and must be completed once every three years. The previous drill at Bush Intercontinental Airport was held in September 2007.

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