Our man in Canberra, Matthew Harper, attended the Australian Airports Association – Emergency Management Forum at the National Picture Gallery in Canberra on 19 October.
Matthew writes that amongst a diverse series of presentations, it was the CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) presentation titled “Emergency Management and CASA – Current and Future Challenges” that had him on the edge of his seat.
The presentation focused on consultation review of the emergency planning and exercising requirements in CASR 139. While some of the changes don’t appear huge, the change to exercising is significant, exciting, and not without challenge.
Central to this change is aligning CASR 139 with ICAO guidelines, bringing Australian airports in line with similar sized airports around the world. Significantly, this allows airports to run modular tests, over a rolling three-year period.
The new section 24.05 Emergency preparedness — operators to whom section 24.02 applies reads:
(1) An aerodrome operator to whom section 24.02 applies must test the aerodrome’s emergency response plan:
(a) in the following exercises:
(i) a full-scale aerodrome emergency exercise conducted at intervals not exceeding 2 years; and
(ii) in each intervening year — partial emergency exercises, for example, a tabletop exercise, to ensure that any deficiencies found during the full-scale aerodrome emergency exercise have been corrected; or [our emphasis]
(b) in a series of modular tests in which:
(i) all modules are tested within 3 years; and
(ii) the interval between the test of any module and its previous test is not greater than 3 years.
(2) An aerodrome operator to whom section 24.02 applies must complete a review the aerodrome’s emergency preparedness procedures not later than 14 days after the following:
(a) an emergency at the aerodrome;
(b) an exercise conducted in accordance with subsection (1);
for the purpose of taking action to correct any deficiency found during the emergency or exercise.
(3) The procedures under subsection (2) must be reviewed with local emergency responders at least annually.
Note: A tabletop exercise conducted between the aerodrome operator and their local emergency responders at least once every 24 months is also recommended to formally evaluate emergency response arrangements.
If we consider subsection 1(b) as the significant changed, the devil will naturally be in the detail and as frequent flyers – thank goodness. The move to a modular system should (in theory) ensure that aerodrome exercises are given greater scrutiny to ensure they achieve their aims and objectives. This means better planning, better exercising and better rectification work when necessary.
So, why are we excited?
We see a great change in airport exercising as more airports move to modular testing using modern, cost-effective technology. More flexible and engaging exercises can occur without disrupting the whole airport. Modules can be tested and drills involving diverse areas of the airport can become more common. The traditional focus on tactical response can be complemented with modules that practise operational and strategic management, from a crash site right through to the state or national medical response system.
The challenge will be making desktop exercises interesting, thought-provoking and engaging. This is where new technology, particularly virtual reality (VR), comes into play. In VR we can land an A380/A320/B747 or any modern commercial aircraft, and activate the emergency slides, respond fire appliances, ambulances and police cars. We can train the senior operations team to look at the scene as they really would, from the safety of a control room or via virtual CCTV. Even more importantly, we can analyse the decision-making in real time and afterwards—all without deploying hundreds of real (and expensive) first-responders and role-player casualties.
Welcome to our virtually new world of airport exercises.