SEATAC, Wash. -- Besides just a plane crash, airports are vulnerable to other disasters, like earthquakes, that can cause them to come to a devastating stop.
Just weeks ago a tornado ripped through St. Louis'Lambert Fieldcausing serious damage to the main terminal, a concourse and scattered vehicles on the roof of the parking garage.
Ten years ago at Sea-Tac, during the Nisqually quake, air traffic controllerBrian Shimpfcontinued todirect planes as the control tower shattered around him. There was also damage inside the terminal at Sea-Tac.
Wendy Reiter, Sea-Tac's director of Security and Emergency Preparedness, just lead 75 Sea-Tac emergency responders, airfield operations managers and community leadersback to Washington, D.C. to have the airport's emergency response plan for a natural disastertested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They tested to see how well the airport was prepared to deal with a big quake.
There, FEMA operates a special training center where cities, counties, states and now airports can volunteer to have their emergency plans put to a stress test by federal disaster experts.
Responders had to work through the plan to see if a runway could be re-opened,people rescued from a damaged passenger terminal,and folks reached inside a partially collapsed parking garage.
FEMA presented a series of worsening scenarios from a mild quake, up through something as severe as a 7.4 magnitude giant.
I thought we did a very good job. We walked away with some areas we need to improve. Exactly what we wanted to do, said Reiter.
She saystraining will be refined and more training offered to other airport employees.
Emergency response experts have long said thatairportsare likely to beone of the few lifelines availableasa quake is likely to knock outhighway and railroad bridgesand tsunami's could trash docking space for ships.
We are going to be one of the most important pieces of real estate in Western Washington. It's going to be critical that we be back up and operating as fast as possible to assist the region to recover,' said airport ManagingDirector Mark Reis.
We need to be somewhat self-sufficient in a regional event, said Randy Krausethe airport's fire chief. You always know that, but they presented a realistic scenario that proved that to be the case.
Only Dallas Fort Worth Airport in Texas has been through the same kind of self imposed shakedown -- in their case the risk coming from severe storms and more tornadoes.