The Coast Guard, Kauai Fire Department, HDOT Airports Division, HDOT Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Section, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services, Kauai Police Department, American Medical Response, and Wilcox Medical Center conducted a full-scale mass rescue exercise Friday at Ahukini Recreational Pier State Park and Hanamaulu Bay.
This is the first airport response exercise of this scale conducted in an ocean environment in the state and is vital based on the volume of air traffic in the region and the proximity of most airports to the ocean.
This exercise, a triennial FAA requirement for the Lihue Airport Response Fire Fighting department, tested local agencies ability working together and evaluated interagency communications, response plans, and responders’ actions to a simulated downed commercial airliner. It began with a mayday call for an airliner suffering a birdstrike and performing a controlled ditch into the ocean with 80 passengers and five crew.
During the search and rescue exercise, multiple agencies’ assets and crews launched including ten Coast Guard Station Kauai crewmembers and more than 40 high school students from Kapaa High School to simulate passengers in distress.
Assets and crews included a Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Station Kauai, a helicopter crew from Air Station Barber’s Point, a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126), a Rescue Company and Air 1 helicopter from the Kauai Fire Department, Jet-Ski operators from Ocean Safety, an ambulance crew on standby from AMR, and medical personnel from the Department of Health and Wilcox Medical Center and the University of Hawaii EMS training program.
Exercises like this are conducted to evaluate notification and response procedures between first responders and to identify shortfalls in communication and coordination of response during search and rescue (SAR) incidents. Each agency holds unique capabilities that complement each other’s efforts and bolsters the overall success of the SAR system.