Brownsville, Texas – To maintain current certification, the Federal Aviation Administration requires every commercial airport in the nation to conduct a live drill every three years. On Wednesday, October 21, the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport conducted a live full-size drill.
“The drill is extremely intense and many agencies and city departments including the airport staff, fire department, the police department, and the Office of Emergency Management,” said Airport Director Bryant Walker. “This drill included a full- sized aircraft and volunteer ‘victims’ so our team experienced what a real disaster might feel like. In addition to the normal drill protocols, we had COVID-19 protocols in place as well. During the drill check-in period, temperature screenings, masks and social distancing were mandated, “said Walker.
Cameron County Health officials, Transportation Security Administration, and both United and American Airlines personnel observed the drill in progress. The exercise involved over 75 people with 40 volunteers plus stationary objects simulate injured and non-responsive passengers.
“This exercise is a valuable opportunity to experience something we never hope to face; however, it is vital that we practice and test our emergency procedures to maintain our skills,” said Shawn Schroeder, Assistant Director of Aviation. “Also, the drill allows us to continuously improve the Airport’s emergency response plan.”
The drill was conducted at the far end of the airport so normal operations would not be disrupted. Additionally, in the event the curious happen to witness the drill, signs were placed by the drill site stating that an exercise was in progress.
Staging of the drill began at 9 am and a drill emergency call began an 9:38 am. “This is a drill…this is a drill…this is a drill,” blared over emergency radios, followed by an incident description.
The drill concluded at 11:06 am.
“We not only satisfied our training requirements, but we demonstrated the capabilities of our first responders and teamwork across departments,” added Walker. “And I’m proud to say that even the casualties walked away in good spirits.”