A weekend plane crash in San Francisco has airports across the country reviewing their emergency response plans.
“It’s always kind of refreshes everybody’s mind to say ‘Hey this can still happen to us any day,’” said Gilbert Neal, Safety Director at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
XNA has its own fire station, which includes three fire trucks, operating 24 hours a day.
Responders are mandated by the Federal Aviation Association to be on the scene within three minutes of an accident. Neal says they have mutual aid with all of the fire departments in the region as well as local hospitals.
The first priority in a crash is to put out the fire.
“Those airplanes come in here and they got their wings, their tanks are just full of fuel so you got a strong big fire and it needs to be knocked down,” said Neal. “If don’t knock that down we can’t get people a safe way to escape.”
Every three years airport responders have a full scale exercise and they revise the plan yearly.
“We discuss and work on our emergency plan and make sure we’re all on the same playing field especially depends on our mutual aid departments,” Neal said.
Neal says they work closely with area hospitals so they will know how many people the hospitals can treat at a time.
“We activate the plan, which includes calling in extra nursing personnel, extra support personnel, and extra physicians,” said Dr. James Holden, an emergency room doctor at Northwest Health System.
Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville is the main hospital XNA officials work with.
“You don’t want to take all the critical patients to one hospital, they would take some to Mercy in Rogers, some to Springdale and probably some down to Washington Regional, initially,” Dr. Holden said.
Northwest Medical Center is a level 3 trauma center. Some severe injuries need the care of a level one trauma center. That’s where medical helicopters come into use.
“They would even be going to the airport, most likely, to transport the most critical patients directly from the airport to the level one trauma centers if needed,” said Neal.
The closest level one trauma center to Northwest Arkansas is in Springfield, Mo.