Duluth Airport and Multiple Agencies Partake in Emergency Water Landing Exercise

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: June 26, 2019 06:23 PM

The Duluth International Airport along with multiple agencies participated in an emergency water landing exercise Wednesday. It’s part of a full-scale emergency exercise the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) requires airports to do.


"It really gave us an opportunity to work with other agencies and to be able to workout some communication issues that always happen in large events and help to coordinate with each other,” Brent Consie, the assistant chief for the Duluth Fire Department, said.

The Lake Superior Bay area was used as an emergency practice area for the Duluth Airport and multiple agencies. They simulated the incident and had emergency crews all over responding to the scene.

The FAA requires airports to conduct a full-scale exercise every three years. Each full-scale exercise that is done is a different emergency scenario. In 2016, the Duluth Airport did an active shooter exercise. 

"We were able to identify where the plane was, where victims were in the water, and be able to coordinate any rescue with the command staff up at the airport,” Consie said.

Consie added that the fire department got to put the Marine 19 in service during the emergency exercise. The 32-foot V-hull fire and rescue craft was used to train other agencies on how to use the craft as part of a water rescue response. 

Airport staff, St. Louis and Douglas County first responders, healthcare facilities, the Red Cross, the Coast Guard, The National Transportation Safety Board, and more, took part in this crucial exercise. It tested procedures for response, communication, incident command, and recovery coordination.

"The sheriff’s office has jurisdiction over all waterways including Lake Superior. We work in conjunction on the rescue squad response side with the coast guard, the Duluth Fire Department, and volunteer rescue squad,” Duane Johnson, a St. Louis County Sheriff's Office emergency management coordinator, said.

It’s important for airports to be prepared for the unpredictable. That's why practicing for emergency situations is important.

"We try to identify some of the things that didn't go good. We do have some challenges on water coordination,coordination with some of the other agencies," Johnson said. 

Making sure there's effective communication and organization among all the agencies responding to the emergency is a big takeaway for everyone participating.

"There’s always learning that happens at exercises like this and that's why you have them," Tom Werner, the executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority, said.

"Making sure the information is flowing up and down, that's kind of a challenge in any incident but especially with a larger incident like this. We have multiple victims, multiple fatalities, trying to coordinate which hospital they're going to," Johnson said. 

The exercise shows the huge team effort it takes in any emergency to save the lives of people.

"No matter what scenario we lay out during an exercise it will probably never unfold that way. What it does is it tests our ability to think on our feet to effectively communicate across jurisdictional boundaries,” Werner said.

After the exercise, an accident review will assess the exercise and determine what improvements are needed and follow up with agencies.


Alejandra Palacios

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