Gatwick Airport validates emergency plan with multi-agency exercise

Gatwick Airport recently took part in Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Re-Certification exercise to test the airport’s emergency plan. Focusing on an off-airfield aircraft accident next to a railway line, this was the first full scale, face-to-face multi-agency exercise to take place since the pandemic.

Participants included Gatwick Airport Fire and Rescue Service, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, Sussex Police, South East Coast Ambulance Service, Network Rail, Air Ambulance and West Sussex County Council Resilience and Emergency Team. The exercise also provided EasyJet cabin crew and crisis team with a valuable training opportunity. Volunteers from the Casualties Union and EasyJet played the role of casualties, while fire simulations were provided by Alpine Metal Tech.

The full exercise took two and a half hours, with JESIP leads from all agencies initially meeting at 10-minute intervals. A hot debrief took place onsite at the end of the exercise, with all agencies returning to headquarters to carry out full debriefs with their crews. The Coordinating Group will now begin to collate the learnings from the exercise and take those into the development of the final report to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Simon Petts, Chief Fire Officer at Gatwick Airport and Chair of the Airport Fire Officers Association (AFOA), said, “It has been a real challenge to continue training in a COVID-secure way throughout the pandemic but as the CAA has advised, airports must now put plans in place to test their emergency plan at the earliest opportunity. There has been a huge amount of organisational change at airports and emergency services over the last 18 months, and this exercise provided all agencies with an opportunity to understand what the impacts of those changes have on emergency response, and share their learnings, according to JESIP principles.”

Heathrow Airport’s Fire & Rescue Service (also AFOA members) has also recently also carried out a multi-agency exercise, and more airports and aerodromes are expected to follow.