Passengers departing from or arriving at St. John’s International Airport might have been alarmed by the volume of emergency response vehicles in the area on Wednesday morning.
The collective presence of firefighters, police officers and other first responders was, in fact, part of a biennial large-scale exercise to test the airport authority’s emergency response plan.
Todd Brophy, fire chief for the airport authority and its manager of emergency response and planning, says the tests are necessary not only because it ensures the airport’s plan falls in line with Transport Canada standards, but to ensure co-ordination with local and regional partners.
“We want to make sure we're up to speed with all our partners, that we work well together and that they know our resources and we know theirs, so when the incident does happen, we're as prepared as we can be,” Brophy told media following the nearly three-hour exercise that included representatives from Eastern Health, the St. John’s Regional Fire Department, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and others.
It also demonstrates to the traveling public and airport community, Brophy explained, that the airport authority has their safety and security at the fore of its efforts to operate an international airport.
Wednesday’s scenario involved two phases: a security threat wherein a disgruntled employee left a bomb threat in the terminal building, and a major aircraft emergency exercise wherein the same employee sabotaged an aircraft for personal reasons.
“We all worked together and the exercise went extremely well,” Brophy said.
“I want to thank all the partners that come and take part in the responsive planning for these exercises … and finally our own staff,” Brophy said. “They play a very important role here at the airport in emergency planning and in emergency response.”
No incoming or outgoing flights were affected by the exercise.