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Hagerstown Regional Airport holding emergency disaster drill this weekend

Written by on October 14, 2020

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — The Hagerstown Regional Airport will be holding a simulated emergency disaster drill on Saturday, October 17th, from 9 AM to 11 AM.

Eugene Bolanowski, operations manager for Hagerstown Regional Airport, explained that the drill is required by the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports certificated under Part 139, meaning airports who serve scheduled and unscheduled air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats and scheduled air carrier operations in aircraft with more than 9 seats but less than 31 seats, to conduct training exercises every three years to test their emergency response plans in the event of an aircraft accident. 

The drill is designed to bring together the first responders, airport personnel, county personnel, and others who would be involved in the response operations in order to ensure that the response plans are still current, effective, and practiced.

Firemen practicing emergency response plan on training aircraft. (2017)
Photo courtesy of Eugene Bolanowski, Operations / Security Manager, Hagerstown Regional Airport

Between the drills, these same groups meet yearly to review the response plans, previous drill results, and to then revise the response plans in order to account for changes that may happen; be it changes in personnel, airport construction or changes in airline service, or as a result of lessons learned the response procedures.

This year, the drill will look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect community volunteers, first responders, and airport staff members. The drill was originally scheduled to occur in April but was postponed due to the lockdowns implemented by Governor Hogan.

In previous drills, a number of volunteers were needed to act like victims to add realism to the event. However, the FAA and the airport staff agreed that the health and safety of first responders and volunteers were critical, thus removing volunteer victims from this year’s drill. Bolanowski explained that she is thankful for the volunteers and while they cannot be used this year, they will likely be needed for the next drill.

Firemen responding to volunteer victim for training. (2017)
Photo courtesy of Eugene Bolanowski, Operations / Security Manager, Hagerstown Regional Airport

This year’s drill has also been scaled down to allow for the responding fire and EMS units can complete their training requirements and response plan testing in a timely manner while still being able to practice working around the airport in a safe manner.  

Bolanowski stressed that she and other staff are ensuring that while the drill is going on, citizens in the area will still have emergency services coverage. The Washington County Division of Emergency Services has helped to coordinate coverage so that while the units participating in the drill are at the airport, their service areas are being covered as well.

Bolanowski also explained that the drill should not look different to citizens around the airport as compared to previous years. She stated that the drill would usually start with a pyrotechnic display, but this has been canceled for this year’s drill. Instead, the drill will start with a radio broadcast from the control tower to the Washington County dispatch center asking for response units to come to the airport. 

Pyrotechnic display that preceded emergency response drill. (2017)
Photo courtesy of Eugene Bolanowski, Operations / Security Manager, Hagerstown Regional Airport

For the citizens who would be driving along Showalter Road, they should expect to see emergency response vehicles staging at the New Heights parking lot, and once the drill begins at 9 AM, those units responding to the airport will proceed with their lights on.  

For the pilots and tenants on the airport, they will see the first responders working around one of our training aircraft, moving training mannequins around to a triage area, and setting up for extraction from the aircraft.

Firemen removing a mannequin from the affected aircraft. (2017)
Photo courtesy of Eugene Bolanowski, Operations / Security Manager, Hagerstown Regional Airport

During the drill, the airport will remain open for normal aircraft operations and there should be no disruption to aircraft arrivals or departures.  Pilots will be made aware of the drill with the publishing of a NOTAM (Notice to Airman) alerting them to the drill, and the appropriate closures of some taxiways around the training aircraft area, but these measures are part of our normal safety precautions during events being held at the airport.

Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, this is a closed event and will not be open to the public or media.

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