Recently, we were invited over to Suvarnabhumi Airport to watch an Emergency Exercise involving a natural disaster. All members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) must have plans for emergency situations. They have to conduct a partial emergency exercise at least once a year and a full scale emergency exercise once every two years. Last year the simulation was a mid-air hijack in an aircraft that then requested an emergency landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport. On Thursday we went to watch a partial emergency exercise that involved a lightning strike against ground crew standing next to an aircraft.
The emergency exercise involved a Thai Airbus A340-500 which was parked at aircraft stand A6 at the airport. The Bureau of Aeronautical Meteorology gave an announcement for adverse weather conditions. The Electrical Field Mill was more than 2,000 volts per meter which meant a danger from lightning strikes. The Airside Operation Control Center (AOCC) then immediately gave a “lightning warning” to all staff at the airport by telephone and trunk radio. A “Follow Me” vehicle was also dispatched to broadcast a warning to all staff working in the field. Unfortunately, due to communication problems, staff at parking bay A6 continue to service the aircraft unaware of a potential danger.
At 10.20 a.m. the aircraft is struck by lightning. Seven minutes later, the supervisor discovers that one of his crew is down. The Ground Operation Control Center (GOCC) is quickly notified of this tragedy. The GOCC immediately notifies the Suvarnabhumi Medical Department. At 10.34 a.m., an ambulance, that was on standby on Concourse D, is dispatched with a full medical crew. A doctor briefly checks out the victim and then he is loaded onto a stretcher and the ambulance quickly leaves for the nearest hospital.
At 10.35 a.m., another victim is found by the supervisor who immediately raises the alarm. GOCC is once again informed. They then contact Suvarnabhumi Medical Department who are told that there is a second victim. At 10.40 a.m., a second ambulance is dispatched from Smitivej Hospital to pick up the victim at parking bay A6. At 11 a.m., the weather situation returns to normal. The Bureau of Aeronautical Meteorology revokes the adverse weather warning. The AOCC receives the message and relays a “Normal Weather” situation report to everyone.
The emergency exercise took place between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the airport. The whole exercise played out in realtime so it seemed at times that they were taking a long time with the emergency response. However, this wasn’t a Hollywood movie that often speeds up time. It took time for the ambulance to be dispatched and to arrive at the scene. There were dark clouds in the sky which helped to add to he realism. Fortunately we had no real lightning strikes. Click here to watch a video that we also shot during the event.