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SLO County Airport staff take steps to prepare for potential future emergencies

Posted at 6:15 PM, Aug 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-26 22:45:00-04

While large scale aircraft emergencies like what happened at the Santa Barbara Airport Sunday night are pretty uncommon, staff at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport say they take steps year-round to not only try to prevent emergencies from happening, but to be prepared in case one does.

Staff have a checklist they go through every day and night to ensure everything here is operating as it should, but when emergencies do arise, the airport has CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo County firefighters and their crash response vehicle to respond.

As the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport gets busier and busier, the need to prepare for an aircraft emergency grows.

"It's the thing you don't want to have to have happen, but we're expected to be ready for it at all times so it's important to have the proper people, training and equipment is critical," explained Airport Director Kevin Bumen.

Bumen says his staff reviews their safety procedures frequently to stay in compliance with FAA regulations.

"Every day, we're inspecting the facility. We're doing various reports and documents to ensure the facility is currently ready to respond to emergencies," said Bumen.

Another key factor in their arsenal is CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo County's crash response vehicle.

It's the only CAL FIRE vehicle like it in the state.

"It's required by the FAA that we can respond to anywhere on the airfield within three minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week; so it's extremely fast, extremely powerful and carries a lot of water and a lot of foam concentrate," explained Engineer, Sam Kowal.

Firefighters must go through 40 hours of special training in order to be allowed to operate the vehicle and then have to take yearly courses to make sure their certificates stay up to date.

"That involves some testing, familiarization with runways, taxiways, the new terminal, making sure we know the different kinds of aircraft coming in and out of here," Kowal said.

Kowal says they frequently get tested with randomized drills in order to ensure they stay on their toes.

Firefighters stationed at the airport also respond to medical calls and fires, leaving one person stationed for the crash response vehicle at the airport at all times.