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Emergency Response Planning – What Flightcrews Can Do to Be Prepared

ORLANDO, FL, October 8, 2008 – Tuesday afternoon brought a unique training session to NBAA2008, as Pete Agur, of the VanAllen Group, Inc, in conjunction with the NBAA Flight Attendants Committee, presented to cabin crew professionals and flight department managers, a proven strategy to develop a “readiness” plan for coping with the aftermath of an aircraft accident.

“Why do you want to develop a plan?” asked Agur. “It comes down to the difference between emergency preparation and emergency response. When we go through our mandatory training in the aviation industry, almost all of what we learn is ‘immediate action’ activities. But when an accident occurs, every company needs a plan in place that your team has been trained on and can immediately activate.”

An emergency response plan (ERP) should be written by a number of people in a company, because even though an accident will initiate from the flight department, it becomes a corporate-wide event; therefore, all procedures and planning involved in an ERP should come from all departments: legal, public relations, human resources, financial, government relations and the executive suite.

According to Agur, businesses should develop their ERP based upon the absolute worst-case scenario, so that its plan will cover any possible situation. But companies should determine what a worst-case scenario looks like for their typical operations – would it be a crash involving a top executive? A celebrity? A politician? Would there be children onboard?

Agur set up his presentation by timeframe after an incident, with a large focus on what typically occurs in the first hour of an emergency, and demonstrated how an ERP should be constructed to address the events of those first critical moments.

For example, Agur explained that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will not go to a site unless they know exactly where the crash occurred, so companies should make every effort to figure out exactly where the aircraft is located as soon as possible. He also noted that the earliest information about the incident will be wrong, incomplete and should not be shared. Once a company has confirmed the basic and critical information, they should proceed with activating the ERP.

Any ERP should include policies for activities and resources throughout the crisis, including briefings; next-of-kin notification teams; pre-trained volunteers and roles; on-site team assignments and training protocols; necessary kits for response; and a transportation plan for deploying a team to the crash site.

Agur provided the audience with guidance for moving forward with their own ERP’s, stating that the first step is talking with their company’s leadership to agree to develop an ERP. Once the ERP has been developed, the company should begin selecting and training next-of-kin notifiers, family liaisons and the on-site deployment team. Then, guided by the ERP, they should train, exercise and simulate. Finally, once an effective ERP has been finalized, it should be shared with all relevant people in the company.

“Fortunately we have few accidents in this industry. But when we do, people involved always share information very readily and we learn more each time to be better prepared for when there is, unfortunately, a next time,” concluded Agur.

The Association will make this session and several others available through its NBAA On-Demand Education Program. For more information on how to order, visit http://nbaa.impactlearning.org.

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