Sangster International Airport staff, stakeholders happy with simulation exercise
Sangster International Airport

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Stakeholders of Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport (SIA) were left beaming with pride after executing what they described as a "successful" full-scale emergency exercise simulation on Wednesday morning.

According to Sharon Hislop-Holt, manager of commercial business development and marketing at MBJ Airports Limited, the company which operates SIA, this exercise has highlighted both the readiness and effectiveness of the airport's emergency response teams.

Wednesday's simulation exercise, which commenced at 7:00 am and ended approximately two hours later, saw representatives from the airport carrying out their different roles as if an aircraft had landed in nearby waters, Hislop-Holt told the Jamaica Observer.

"We carried out a full-scale emergency exercise where we simulated an aircraft event occurring over water and the simulation took place in the Whitehouse community in the vicinity of the Tropical Bliss beach. This was in coordination with other emergency response services as well as our mutual aid partners," said MBJ's manager of commercial business development and marketing.

"Based on the agencies' response, the event was a success. It was also a learning exercise for all," she added.

Participating in this exercise were representatives of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), the marine police, the US Embassy, the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and emergency responders from the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH).

Hislop-Holt said other employees of the airport were on-site to execute their various roles and responsibilities.

This, she explained, "was very crucial".

"It was a learning experience and nothing beats actual on-hand training. While it was just a test, some [workers] acted as passengers while others played their roles to help rescue. They were tested on their knowledge of what to do, who to call, and when to respond. This was a good learning experience for them, especially for our emergency response team at the airport," she told the Observer.

Also expressing his contentment with the simulation exercise was Peter Hall, MBJ's chief operating officer, who told the Observer that the airport is "always in a state of readiness".

"The airport, based on our emergency response plan and what we have executed here today, we are always in a state of readiness and this event has certainly sharpened our capacity to respond to any eventuality," Hall said.

In stressing the importance of a competent emergency response team, Hall pointed out that all employees of the airport should experience a simulation exercise. Noting that this activity is a requirement of the JCAA, Hall stated that the novel coronavirus pandemic disrupted the airport's biennial aircraft crash simulation.

"It is an essential task that all airport employees get involved in this exercise so they can learn and be a part of the emergency response system of the airport so, in any event, they can respond at any time," he told the Observer.

Hall continued, "This is one of the reasons that we conduct these exercises. It is to prepare us to always be in the state of readiness to respond in the case of any eventuality."

For his part, Benton Allen, the manager of the airport's Emergency Response Services (ERS) told the Observer that having supervised and assessed his firefighters and other emergency response personnel on Wednesday, he is "confident" in their abilities to respond to an emergency.

"We have been training for this for a long time, not just this specific exercise, but for real-life scenarios and as you can appreciate, the maritime incidents are not an exception. So we train for land-based aircraft-related emergencies as well as those that are at sea and based on what I have seen here today, I think that we are very ready in terms of response and capabilities. I am talking collectively because we work as a team with all the mutual aiders," said Allen.

The fire chief added, "I am confident that if the time comes, God forbid, we are very prepared based on the training we got. I think a lot of what we have trained for has been executed, so I am confident moving forward."

By ROCHELLE CLAYTON Observer staff reporter claytonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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