An uncorroborated news story broadcast by a provincial media outlet of a plane crash in Williams Lake made Sunday’s mock emergency exercise at the Williams Lake Airport a little more challenging.
The City is required by Transport Canada to host a mock exercise once every five years to ensure its emergency services are prepared for an airport emergency.
This year’s scenario included a passenger plane that was hijacked and diverted to Williams Lake; however, before it could land it crashed with 13 passengers on board. Williams Lake fire, police, ambulance and emergency search and rescue personnel were involved in the mock rescue as were Columneetza High School’s drama students.
According to Des Webster, assistant fire chief, the scenario went well with the exception of Global TV’s reporting of the crash as a real event. Once it became apparent the situation was not real the story was recanted but not before the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Comox heard the “news” and called the airport asking if they required assistance.
Webster doesn’t know how Global caught wind of the exercise but suspects it might have been through the communication scanner. In order to try to prevent confusion, he said, dispatchers had prefaced their initial calls with the fact that it was an exercise.
“With electronic media these days things move so fast we never imagined we’d have to call Global News and let them know that we’re doing an exercise,” he said.
“Next time we will have it in the local media before so if people do hear it on the scanner. The strange thing was all our transmissions initially to start the scenario, we made sure they all said this is an exercise.”
Webster said one of the many things they learned from this exercise was to let the public know before hand as well as to alert Global News.