Safety Manager / Fire-fighter
Brussels South Charleroi Airport is a Belgian airport located in Gosseliers, to the north of the city of Charleroi. It is located about 45 kilometres south of Brussels. Brussels South Charleroi is the second-largest airport in the country and the first in the Walloon Region in terms of passenger traffic. It serves 146 destinations, averaging 125 flights and 20,000 passengers daily.
In March 2015, the Charleroi Airport emergency services were mobilised to test the effectiveness of the internal emergency response plan. In order to allow responders to best assess the effectiveness of their response, the exercise involved a smoking airplane fuselage, burning cars and a bus full of wounded people.
The scenario conceived for the full-scale exercise was the following: On March 19 2015, around 10h30, a plane from Germany has to make an emergency landing at Charleroi because of significant technical problems. The emergency landing does not go as expected and the pilot loses control. The plane, with 20 passengers on board, crashes in Parking Lot 3 at the Charleroi Airport. The aircraft strikes a bus carrying 30 people and burns two vehicles. There are a number of wounded. The challenge in such a situation is to communicate essential information as quickly as possible to the appropriate people.
The AlarmTILT® Solution
The Brussels South Charleroi Airport introduced AlarmTILT® in 2012. During this full-scale test, AlarmTILT® triggered the emergency plan®. The fire-fighters were immediately informed. They were able to quickly control the flames and attend to the wounded as soon as possible. The other services likely to be involved in an air disaster also participated in the exercise. Among the different teams that were informed were the airport, the fire-fighters, the Red Cross, the local and federal police, the Parquet, and the Wallonia public service, 260 people in all including 60 “extras” who played the roles of the victims.
Pierre Halleux, Head of Security at the Charleroi Airport and operation coordinator gave it a positive assessment: “Everything went very well and on time. The services communicated well, and there were no workflow problems noted.”
In the middle of all of this commotion, observers from each department involved in the disaster plan watched, took notes and filmed it. After the operation, the AlarmTILT® reports enabled them to analyse internally the observations noted during the exercise and to compare all of these reports in order to provide an overall assessment of the operation. Every two years, the airport must test its internal emergency plan. It is mandatory and necessary to ensure its effectiveness.
“Doing an exercise like this allows us to deploy our internal emergency plan and to evaluate it to be able to reposition ourselves. That is to say, asking the right questions about the areas that did not go well, finding out why didn’t they go well, and figuring out the steps to take so that these problems don’t happen again” explained Vincent Grassa, spokesperson for the Charleroi Airport.
This full-scale exercise lasted about two hours without disrupting the airport’s regular operations, despite using the emergency services in the simulation. It was a very efficient deployment but it was done very discreetly in order not to frighten travellers.