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Tuesday, September 19, 2006



Just before the end of my shift, on Saturday, I was talking with one of the security officers at The Grand. Security has been having a lot of "drills" recently. Fire, safety, medical, etc. While they can be a pain, they are necessary to determine where flaws in a situational event can occur.

I related a story about a drill we had when I worked in Nevada.

The FAA inspectors decided that they wanted to see how a backwoods ambulance service, fire department, sheriff's office and police department would respond to a small commercial airliner crashing on the runway. This was in the days prior to the 9-1-1 emergency phone system. The initial call was received by the fire department, which triggered the fire siren at city hall, alerting all volunteer firefighters to respond to the station. The paid fireman on duty came on the radio, all the above agencies shared one radio channel, and notified the sheriff dispatcher that a plane was reported to have crashed on the runway at our little local airport. There was a reported fire and multiple victims scattered along the runway.

I was on patrol in the central part of town. The main entrance to the airport was about 5 miles north of town, on the US highway. Just at the north edge of town was a fence and gate that provided access to the far south end of the runway, less than 1/2 mile from my location. This fencing is the typical "school' style, chain-link and a matching double gate. The gate is secured with chain and a padlock.

Since I didn't know where on the runway the crash had occurred, it made sense, at least to me, that I should enter at the closest point of access and then continue north on the runway until I reached the crash site. This gate was located adjacent to an autowrecker's yard and I was doing about 100 mph when I hit the gate, taking it off its hinges and sustaining some minor damage to the front fenders of my car.

Turned onto the runway and floored it. Couldn't see any smoke or flames anywhere. Advised dispatch of what I couldn't see and continued north to the far end of the airport. The Sheriff and the Chief of Police were in the airport terminal with the FAA inspectors, looking down the US highway for the responding emergency equipment, stopwatches in hand.

They hadn't seen me on the runway and were upset when I advised that there was no crash. Pulled up to the terminal and was immediately given praise by the FAA inspectors. They were impressed by my initiative. The Sheriff was amused and the Chief was pissed because I had damaged one of our four patrolcars. He kept his mouth shut about his displeasure because the FAA guys were ecstatic. All agencies received letters of commendation from the FAA and I received a personal letter of praise from them. Those letters changed the Chief's attitude and the city also wrote a letter of commendation for my actions. Seems that the mayor and city council were also impressed with my actions.

I wish I had some film of that. It must have been spectacular when those gates went airborn. Oh, this was back in the days when cars were made of metal and weighed about 6,000 lbs..

When people run drills, they have to expect the unexpected.



Beautiful Wave
Fleecy Clouds
The Humpbacks will return in December


Kona coast, Big Island
Downtown Lahaina
West Mau'i Mountains

"Let's all be careful out there!"


Peggy said...

Did you have the theme to Starsky & Hutch running through your head at the time? It sounds like a script straight out of a 70's cop series. Well done with the initiative.

jo said...

Hi Wil

I bet you they didn't see that one coming!!
Well done you - if they didn't want real reactions they should have told people it was a drill.

Jo x

CharterJames said...

Great story. Brings to mind a couple of things beyond the general buffoonery of officialdom.

One, on the light side, as I try to picture the scene I wonder if your cruiser was sporting the classic "cherry top" of the day.

Two, and I little more seriously, I would love to know more about the sort of mindset that would note and remember the one gate on the perimeter of an airport. Are you just exceptionally good at that sort of thing? Are all cops? Is it part of the training?

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