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SFO Completes Annual Full-Scale Emergency Exercise

Simulated earthquake event tests emergency response, business continuity procedures

SFO completed its annual emergency exercise on October 12, 2016, testing procedures for communication, incident command, and recovery in coordination with multiple agencies.  Although federal regulations require U.S. airports to conduct such a drill every three years, SFO conducts this exercise annually to ensure the highest level of readiness, with the selection of a different emergency scenario for each drill.  For this year’s exercise, SFO focused on a natural disaster, testing the Airport’s procedures to respond, recover and restore normal operating conditions following the simulation of a damaging earthquake.

“The annual emergency exercise is a key component in our process of continual improvement to our emergency management program,” said Airport Director John L. Martin.  “I appreciate the involvement of local, state, and federal agencies to develop a well-coordinated response to any emergency event at SFO.”

The Airport simulated facility damage from an earthquake using an unoccupied wing of Terminal 1. Volunteers played the role of injured passengers in the terminal, allowing first responders to practice passenger extrication, triage, and medical transport.  SFO also utilized its Boeing 767 wide-body training aircraft, with volunteers onboard, to simulate a flight stranded on the tarmac following the earthquake.  The Airport also used the exercise to test its recently-acquired $1.7M Mobile Command Post, which gives emergency responders a portable platform to lead, direct, and communicate any response effort.

The exercise demonstrated the effective coordination of various agencies, including Airport staff, the San Francisco Fire Department Airport Division, the San Francisco Police Department Airport Bureau, mutual aid units from around the Bay Area, and various state and federal agencies.  Over 50 volunteers, complete with make-up, participated as role-play passengers.  Southwest Airlines served as the lead airline for the exercise, practicing procedures for reunification of role-play passengers with family members.  Local area hospitals also participated in drills of patient arrival and requests for information.

The exercise also demonstrated the capabilities of the SFO Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which serves as the focal point of the Airport’s efforts to restore normal operations following an event.  The facility has been used extensively since its opening in 2000.