Operation Ready

Sept. 17, 2008
BOS continues its effort to bring together disparate groups into a coordinated plan

The July 2005 issue of AIRPORT BUSINESS featured an in-depth look at initiatives at Boston Logan International Airport to create an integrated system for emergency planning and response. This summer the airport held another regional response exercise to assess how the initiative is progressing and to uncover specific areas that needed work. Here, Chief Robert Donahue offers his assessment of the region’s emergency response program following the most recent exercise.

The one certainty in the aviation industry is change, which constantly requires new business models. Change also brings new developments and challenges to airport emergency planning, which too requires new models. The collision of two aircraft, new large aircraft, and a host of other new age threats are reshaping emergency planning at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). A refocused approach now goes beyond simply meeting regulatory requirements, but extending beyond the airport boundary and community, and engaging the region.

A recent multi-agency exercise series gave birth to airport/regional demand-based emergency planning. This evolved immediately following a near collision at BOS, as Massport enlisted representatives from all levels of government, foreign consulate corps, private industries in the city of Boston, and the Boston Consortium of Higher Education.

OPERATION READY-2007 was planned, designed, and executed over an 18-month period, and stands as the largest mass casualty exercise at any airport in the world.

Demand-Based Emergency Planning
The application of demand management principles provides the logic of a new emergency planning approach. Demand-based planning is designed from a comprehensive analysis of the multi-faceted correlation between Boston Logan Airport and the metropolitan region. Multiple stakeholders worked collaboratively to “peel back the layers” to better understand variables, variances, and critical relationships, with the following emergency planning factors:

  • Identification of stakeholders impacted by a crisis at the airport.
  • Analysis of airport hazard vulnerabilities and trends.
  • Economic and strategic significance of the airport to the region.
  • Type of airport operations (origin and destination).
  • Aircraft fleet mix and passenger density.
  • Aircraft passenger load factors.
  • Region’s core industries, and passenger demographics.
  • The depth and scope of incident impacts and consequence.

The Boston demand management model helped effectively shape “systems thinking” by all stakeholders to better synchronize preparedness across service disciplines. Systemic focus helped raise levels of situational awareness and design of a proportioned response matrix, ensuring resource capacity needs meet incident demand profiles for an entire emergency event.

Near Collision
In 2005, Boston Logan International Airport saw the number of runway incursions jump dramatically. While most incidents were minor and did not pose a significant threat, one did.

On June 9, 2005, two aircraft were placed on a collision course. An Aer Lingus A330 began its takeoff roll on Runway 15R. At the same time, a USAirways 737 began its takeoff roll from Runway 9. Nearly 400 people were on the two aircraft. They came within 100 feet of each other as the USAirways 737 delayed rotation, and stayed on the intersecting runway to let the A330 pass overhead.

A collision of this magnitude would have presented an enormous challenge, greatly impacting the response system at BOS and the region. This type incident is a representative “worst-case accident scenario” at any airport.

The Massport Aviation Department (the airport operator) worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration, pilot groups, and airlines to reduce the number of incursions by redesigning taxiways, improving airfield lighting and markings, as well as enhancing ATC and pilot training.

During this period, Massport Fire-Rescue and regional emergency services worked to analyze the correlating risk factors, as well as their response capabilities, in dealing with such a horrific event.

Exercise Goals
As the groups prepared for a region-wide exercise, the following goals were identified:

  • Assess all hazard planning to ensure response capacity needs meet demand of a high volume casualty event.
  • Apply Airport Incident Management System in relation to the National Incident Management System.
  • Evaluate mass casualty operations, transport capabilities, airfield/egress and surge impacts to hospital intake processes.
  • Review regional traffic management plans of law enforcement and state transportation agencies to optimize flow of emergency vehicles.
  • Evaluate interoperability of public/private emergency operation centers, as well as the interface of emergency plans of public agencies, hospitals, corporate partners and foreign consulates.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities regarding the Family Assistance Center.

The Scenario
During low visibility operations, United Airlines Flight 123, a B757, lands full length on Runway 33L, and reduces speed to roll out. At this point, American Airlines flight 456, a B777, crosses Runway 33L on November Taxiway. The two aircraft collide at moderate speed. There are 532 passengers and crew on board the two aircraft. A fire ensues upon collision, causing multiple casualties and fatalities.

Federal Air Marshals, U. S. Secret Service Agents, executives from Fidelity Investments and State Street Bank, foreign nationals, the Boston University Women’s Ice Hockey Team, passengers with disabilities, and an unaccompanied minor are on board the aircraft.

Exercise Design
The exercise series was designed as a progressive training cycle in which each series module builds upon the next. This approach provides all stakeholders at either end of the response system with an “aerial view” through education and awareness outside of their respective environments.

Symposium & Tabletop 1: More than 400 stakeholders learned about surface incidents and runway incursions by managers of the FAA Boston ATCT. In addition, Captain Henry Jones, the pilot of the USAirways flight on June 9, 2005, provided his perspective and actions to avert disaster. The presentations provided realism and intensity as all stakeholders worked through their processes and roles that they would follow upon notification response and field operations, hospital intake, patient tracking/reconciling manifest.

Full Scale Exercise
In heavy rain and low visibility operations, two aircraft loaded with passengers were positioned on a closed runway. An explosion and fire, managed by the Massachusetts State Police EOD Team, simulated the collision and started the exercise.

A key issue identified for corrective action in the previous exercise was the gap in the efficient throughput of private ambulances onto the airfield. Improvements to staging and throughput management were completed and exercised. Ambulances were grouped in ten, identified as transport strike teams, and loaded into chutes for rapid deployment from staging. Each strike team was assigned an escort vehicle for airfield access and egress.

Survival Factors — 532 passengers and crew:
Priority 1 (110) Priority 3 (196)
Priority 2 (176) Fatal (50)

In triage, 480 survivors were bar-coded, loaded into ambulances and buses, and transported to hospitals in Boston and Cambridge. Buses were escorted to hospitals by police motorcycles. Traffic management and street closure plans were implemented.

Hospitals tested intake and tracking, as well as resource management in staffing emergency departments and operating rooms.

Symposium & Tabletop 2: Activated Logan’s Family Assistance Plan. Over 500 stakeholders listened to Jim Hurd, who lost his son on TWA Flight 800, share his experiences and the importance for airports to be prepared to deal with families.

Also, former National Trans-portation Safety Board member John Goglia described the traumatic aftermath of an aircraft accident, and the needs and issues surrounding surviving families.

Additionally, this program was designed to assist regional colleges and universities with a planning template, as they are ramping up family assistance protocols in light of recent campus shootings.

Outreach and Innovation
The passenger demographic analysis helped emergency planners understand that Logan, like all airports, is interconnected with the region and is where a number of industries intersect. A crisis at the airport has far-reaching impacts for stakeholders that have responsibility or interest over passengers. This drove the outreach to colleges, the consulates, and the private sector.

The exercise was designed to provide students with a practical education opportunity outside the classroom. Casualty victims were played by cadets studying emergency management at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, as well as others from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. Also, students from Boston University College of Communication and Emerson College School of Journalism role-played journalists and media representatives.

Thousands of college students from all over the world travel through Logan individually and as groups, representing their respective institutions.

Fidelity Investments and State Street Corporation, both headquartered in Boston, are two prominent worldwide financial services representing one of Boston’s core industries. On a monthly basis, some 7,000 of their executives are travelling in the air transportation system. Both corporations are also developing Family Assistance Plans of their own.

All transportation authorities in Massachusetts participated to review transit procedures and refine traffic management plans on surface roads and tunnel systems.

The exercise focus was on management of a high-volume casualty event — specifically, processes and systems. Practicing pre-hospital care skills was not an objective as first responders are well prepared in this area, and utilize such skills regularly in daily operations. Casualty victims were pre-triaged and provided with colored T-shirts (red, yellow, green) to match the triage tag and priorities of their conditions. Each victim received a medical script identifying their specific injury and emotional state.

The Massachusetts Office on Disabilities is a key partner. Four volunteer victims self-identified themselves as disabled. Two were visually impaired and two were mobility impaired. The involvement of these individuals gave first responders the opportunity to review interpersonal skills during emergencies, as well as proper management of service animals.

Lessons Learned
Given the variance relative to the diverse aircraft fleet mix serving Logan, in combination with matching passenger loads, a fire-rescue proportioned response plan is being developed. The proportioned response will be scaled to the size of the airframe, and casualty potential.

To help EMS and hospitals to expeditiously coordinate appropriate resources, a “multi-disciplinary crosswalk” matrix is being developed. This will standardize the initial response of fire, EMS and hospitals, based on the demand management model.

Confusion around the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was revealed. Hospitals, public health, the Red Cross, and the airlines explained challenges faced in providing, obtaining, and releasing information regarding patient locations within the hospital system, despite the common goal of reunifying families with victims.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston Public Health Commission, and Massport have established a working group to develop policies and agreements around HIPAA in the event of any transportation disaster in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In a survivable accident, Logan’s Family Assistance Plan will have an expanded role, serving as a centralized information center. Massport, Red Cross, hospitals, and other partners endeavor to provide “one stop shopping” for families to locate their loved ones within the medical system, and to facilitate the reunification of families.

OPERATION READY-2007 identified and shared best practices and training needs for all transportation authorities in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation has launched an initiative, the Massachusetts Mobility Compact, which brings together representatives of the state’s transportation agencies and authorities with a goal of improving daily interagency coordination and information sharing, emergency planning, joint training and exercises.

OPERATION READY-2007 served to fuse a multitude of diverse industries; transportation, public safety, public health/medical, emergency management, academic, and private sector to raise levels of awareness surrounding a transportation disaster at Boston Logan International Airport, including a better understanding and the demands of a specific hazard (in this case, the collision of two aircraft).

The exercise series helped strengthen the response system and provided an opportunity for agency representatives to meet each other in a training setting — an incident scene is no place to be making introductions and exchanging business cards.

By the Numbers: Operation Ready-2007

  • 1700 emergency responders
  • 6 Emergency Operation Centers
  • 480 casualty victims transported off airport
  • 10 patrol and rescue boats
  • 48 fire vehicles
  • 98 police vehicles
  • 90 ambulances
  • 15 colleges and universities
  • 25 buses
  • 105 agencies and organizations
  • 13 hospitals


(Editor’s note: To see the July 2005 cover story on Boston Logan’s emergency response initiative, visit our archives at www.airportbusiness.com.)