Agencies to hold mass rescue operations preparedness exercise for plane crash on Green Bay

9th Coast Guard District NewsSimulated plane crash on ice-covered waterway will be first of its kind

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Austin Straubel International Airport, Brown County Sheriff’s Department, New Franken Fire Department, and more than two dozen partner agencies are scheduled to hold a mass rescue operations preparedness exercise in Green Bay, on Wednesday.

The exercise is not open to the public.

The scenario of the exercise involves simulating the crash landing of a commuter plane with 51 passengers aboard on ice-covered Green Bay, with emergency responders from the Coast Guard and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources using rescue airboats, alongside traditional aviation and shore-based rescue assets in response to the simulated crash.

The exercise — the first of its kind, in that it will be held on an ice-covered waterway environment — is designed to test the coordinated federal/state/local response to a simulated emergency situation. It’s also the first exercise to use airboats, which the Coast Guard designates as Special Purpose Craft-Airboats. Coast Guard SPC-AIRs were used during a real mass rescue operation, as emergency responders on airboats, helicopters, planes, ships and boats from several agencies rescued 134 people trapped on an ice floe adrift in Lake Erie in early February 2009: Click here to read a news release; click here to see aerial footage on the Coast Guard’s Visual Imagery database; or on YouTube.

The exercise also comes 30 years, nearly to the day, after Air Florida Flight 90 crashed onto the 14th Street Bridge and then into the icy Potomac River in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 13, 1982. As a result of the crash, 74 people were killed, including 70 plane passengers and crewmembers and four people in vehicles on the bridge.

The exercise provides the participating agencies the opportunity to evaluate their response plans, capabilities and coordination to the mass rescue operation, transportation security incident and subsequent oil spill response scenario in a maritime, cold-weather environment while working under the auspices of the National Response Framework and the National Search and Rescue Plan.

Local citizens should not be alarmed about any increased presence or activity of area law enforcement and emergency first responders who are participating in the exercise.

“It’s important that we work tirelessly to strengthen the operational partnerships amongst all federal, state and local agencies in the region,” said Rear Adm. Michael Parks, commander of the 9th Coast Guard District. “It’s the only way to ensure that, if a real emergency of this magnitude occurs, we can deliver the robust and timely response that the citizens and visitors of this area expect and deserve.”

“It’s also crucial that we test our ability to respond in all conditions — including the cold-weather maritime environment we have here,” said Parks. “We must never forget about Air Florida Flight 90’s tragic crash into the icy Potomac River 30 years ago last week. This goes to show that, in the real world, an emergency like this could happen at any time, so it’s important that emergency responders practice how they’re expected to operate.”

“Planning, training and exercising are the cornerstones of an effective emergency preparedness program,” said Cullen Peltier, director of Brown County Emergency Management. “This exercise provides us the opportunity to test local, state and federal response plans and ensure that our integrated planning and training efforts would result in an effective and efficient response to a real event.”

Following the exercise, the participants will supply feedback and lessons learned, which will be incorporated with the observations of exercise evaluators to create an after-action report, identifying areas of improvement.

Agencies/companies expected to participate include: Coast Guard Atlantic Area; 9th Coast Guard District; Wisconsin National Guard; Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan; Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Mich.; Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay, Wis.; the Federal Aviation Administration; Delta Airlines; Austin Straubel Airport; Wisconsin Mutual Aid Box Alarm System; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Wisconsin Emergency Management; Brown County Emergency Management; Kewaunee County Emergency Management; Brown County Sheriff’s Office; Green Bay Fire Department; New Franken Fire Department; County Rescue Services; Ashwaubenon Fire Department; Waukesha County Emergency Management; Oconto County Emergency Management; American Red Cross; Atlas Outfitters; and volunteer groups.

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