August 15, 2008

Airport Checks Disaster Response


MUMBAI: The Mumbai airport witnessed an unusual sight on July 25: two vehicles were ablaze on the main runway 09/27, fire brigade personnel rushed in to control the flames, and security officials ferried 'victims' to safety, first to the airport casualty centre and then to Cooper Hospital.

The sequence of events was supposed to be a microcosm of what happens in the aftermath of an air crash. It was a mock exercise conducted by Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) to check its disaster management reaction.

"Though the drill was successful, there are certain areas we need to improve on. For instance, we need to improve access to the site, get communication sockets fixed, add lights and train people better on handling the situation at the site," said airport director Philip Cash.

The airport set ablaze a bus and truck and conducted a two-hour, full-scale emergency drill to test its response timing and accuracy in the event of an emergency. The exercise, which is mandated for all airports according to rules laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), involved airport officials and agencies like the BMC and public hospitals.

"The idea was to check if we are ready to handle a crash situation without warning," said MIAL director Cash. "We had to check not just the response time, but also our shortcomings, so as to rectify them."

The Mumbai airport will submit a report to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on its preparedness. "The report would encompass the strengths as well as the lessons learnt through the drill," Cash added.

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