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Emergency exercise tests airport response to flight crash

Unite Union Press Call at the JMH(Photo John Bugeja) 23.03.17 Gibraltar Tony Woodhouse, a member of the Unite executive council in the UK, campaign relating to Ian McClusky. In pix Michael Netto

Gibraltar Air Terminal yesterday held an emergency exercise which saw 60 volunteers acting as distressed friends and family of those involved in a flight crash.
The aim was to understand how the Air Terminal would inform and support the families of those affected.
The scenario presented to the volunteers was that a flight accident had taken place and the fate of their loved ones was unknown.
In large groups the volunteers flooded into the airport ready to question the staff and hound the information desk.
After this the volunteers were then ushered into a waiting area inside the airport.
In order to ensure a smooth operation the Boarders and Coastguard Agency, GibAir, the Gibraltar Sports and Leisure Authority, and the Gibraltar Bus Company have worked closely with the Air Terminal over the past few months.
Throughout the planned exercise there was no disruption to the daily workings of the Airport.
“The terminal has a major role within the airport emergency orders in that we provide a survivals reunion centre and a friends and relatives reception centre. In this exercise we are just practicing the friends and relatives reception, because ordinarily if an accident were to occur away from Gibraltar the terminal would still react,” said Air Terminal Director Terence Lopez.
“The emergency services have a multi-agency response to an incident occurring either in the runway or in the sea around Gibraltar. The terminal would respond to that or to an incident from an aircraft flying to or away from here.”
Each of the volunteers was handed a brief by Director of Civil Aviation, Chris Purkiss, of what character they should portray, whether it be the brother, aunt, or father of someone involved in the plane crash.
Acting out their roles, fake sobs and shouts could be heard as they tried to understand what had happened to their loved ones.
Once the volunteers were informed of the incident they were then transported by bus to the Tercentenary Sports Hall for further support.
“The aviation industry is the safest form of travel people should not be alarmed,” Mr Lopez said.
“We have very high levels of compliance, for safety and security. We are practicing these processes to pick holes in them.”
Mr Lopez told the Chronicle the exercise had gone well and hoped this would help reassure the public that the airport is ready for an emergency.

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