Knowing the drill in case of emergency

Ben Godar

The response was real, but the crash at the Burbank-

Glendale-Pasadena Airport was just a simulation.

More than a dozen agencies participated in a full-scale emergency


drill Wednesday morning. The exercise is required by the Federal

Aviation Administration at least once every three years.

In the morning scenario, a Boeing 737 had its landing gear

collapse and veered off the runway. A fire in the cockpit and a fuel


spill added suspense to the simulation.

The drill occurred just off the airport’s runways, where the

fuselage of a plane was placed to represent a downed plane. Volunteer

victims laid outside the jet, alongside mannequins donated by Walt

Disney Studios to represent seriously injured victims. Two smoke

machines were used to simulate the fire.

The Burbank Airport Fire Department arrived first, and its crews

quelled the simulated fuel fire by spraying foam from their crash


rigs. Burbank Fire Department firefighters arrived shortly afterward,

and along with Airport and Burbank police began pulling victims from

the wreckage.

Burbank Fire Capt. Ron Bell was among the first to arrive on the

scene. He said the most valuable aspect of such drills is

coordinating with all the other participating agencies.

“It’s figuring out radio frequencies and who’s in charge of the

fire and treatment,” Bell said. “Different agencies are in charge of


all of these things, and we need to be able to work together.”

Glendale Fire officials also participated, and were joined by

various emergency responders, including the Los Angeles Police and

Fire departments and the California Highway Patrol.

The drill did not disrupt airport operations, spokesman Victor

Gill said, adding that planes continued to land throughout the


“Even when there is a real incident, the prime directive is to

keep operating,” he said.

When a Southwest Airlines jet careened off the runway and onto

Hollywood Way in March 2000, Gill said the other runway was opened

shortly after the incident.

Travelers in the terminal were notified about the exercise through

the public-address system, Gill said. Incoming pilots were notified,

but it was up to them whether or not to tell their passengers, he