WEST HAVEN — What would happen if one of the many military fighter jets that crisscross the air above Weber County unexpectedly fell from the sky?
To find out, emergency responders from Hill Air Force Base, as well as personnel from Weber County and West Haven, came together Friday to test their ability to jointly react to a major accident. The exercise revolved around a simulated F-35 mishap, explained U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kayla Leabo.
"Our goal is to form a good relationship with 'off-base' community and test our response capabilities," she said, referring to nearby local entities that would likely be involved in response and investigation of an emergency incident.
The exercise brought in emergency response agencies including local fire departments and law enforcement, she noted.
"(It's) to ensure that we can all work together and make this happen in the event of a worst-case scenario," Leabo said. "Our first priority is the safety of the scene and safety of the residents in the area. The second priority would be to investigate and determine what caused the crash."
"Every crash is different," she said. "We just need to be prepared for whatever happens."
Frequently, local law enforcement is among the first on the scene of a crash incident, explained Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Cortney Ryan. With that in mind, he said having the opportunity to practice responding to a simulated incident can be of great benefit in the event of a real-life episode.
"It's imperative training for all the agencies to come together and be able to work through different issues that arise and have a unified presence and be able to have cooperation between all the different agencies," he said. "The incidents happen. There is nothing we can do to alleviate that. But to protect the citizens and to make sure their safety is addressed is crucial."
He said this department participated in other types of incident training in the time leading up to this exercise for such things as natural disasters or other kinds of emergency situations that require a critical coordinated response.
"We often do work with our local fire department on (hazardous material) training so that we're best prepared for situations like that," Ryan said.
Regular training for emergency response events is critical to being able to handle situations when they do occur, he added.
"The more training and more repetitions you get of something, the better you are and the smoother the exercise goes," he said. "Regular training on this type of stuff is invaluable for us, especially for our first-line responders — the guys that are going to be the first ones on (the) scene (knowing) how to protect themselves and keep themselves safe in an incident such as this."
Ryan said being able to learn how to coordinate between several agencies helps make them all become more familiar with one another so they know what to expect when the time comes during an actual event.
"This is a great opportunity for us all to come together and train together and get to know each other and get to know the different (entities) and what their tasks and jobs are so that we can just flow and make this a successful event," he said.
Meanwhile, West Haven emergency manager Stephanie Carlson said the exercise allows the municipality to get familiar with the Unified Command System that's used to handle coordination between entities during emergency response incidents. The practice is a standardized approach to the command, control and coordination of emergency response that provides a common hierarchy in which responders from multiple agencies can be effective.Comment on this story
"It's everyone working together," she said. "We need to make sure our city is safe and our residents are safe. That's our role as a city, so we will work with everybody to make sure that we achieve that goal."
She said that while they hope such an incident never happens, the live on-site drill "with all the players together" is a great opportunity to see everybody working together for the common good.
"We have worked overtime so that we can make sure that we're the most prepared possible … for the safety of all and to make sure all systems are working in a coordinated effort so all citizens are safe," Carlson said.