Full Scale Exercise the Lakeland Way

I have been rather remiss on writing blogs lately, even though I have tons of things about which to write.  My time has been actually quite consumed with all sorts of activities. While some of the activities assisted with my knowledge and experience within the ARFF industry, others were academic in nature.  The Emergency Services program, for which I am an Associate Chair, just completed our accreditation process through the International Fire Science Accreditation College (IFSAC) for our Bachelor of Science degree. This was quite a lengthy process and one I will write about in an upcoming blog. For today, though, I want to cover a great opportunity I had with the Lakeland Fire Department (Florida) at their Full Scale Exercise (FSE) at the Linder Regional Airport.

Toward the end of February, the Lakeland Fire Department, in conjunction with local emergency service organizations hosted their airport FSE.  This event involved not only the airport and local fire departments, but TSA, FBI, police, and countless other supporting agencies.  The only entities that were not there that would be involved during such an incident were the local hospitals.

This incident had an interesting twist for an airport FSE.  The scenario had a Boeing 737-400, in route from Lakeland from Atlanta, making the final approach before crashing. Sections of the left wing landed within one of the solar farms located on the airport’s property – actually on the leading edge of the runway.  This was a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI), but the cause was unknown.

0_solar-powered-airport-750x400.jpgThe above picture is of the Canberra International Airport, Australia. To read more about their concerns visit: Canberra Airport raises safety concerns about 4MW solar farms.

Such an exercise is rather forward thinking in my opinion as more and more of these solar farms are popping up around airports.  These certainly add another safety issue when responding to an incident.  As many of you know, the largest solar farm is located right outside of the Indianapolis International Airport.  Since the solar cells gather energy from the sun, they cannot be turned off by a simple switch like other electrical items.  There is a whole process that has to be completed by the power company before it is even safe for individuals to enter the area.  Lakeland’s FSE took this into account and had two power companies involved. While the power company representatives assured emergency personnel that the panels are not collecting power from moonlight or any other sources than the sun, the areas should never be entered without the power company’s assistance.

I found this great article that discusses the concern of firefighters with solar panels: Death Panels: Why Firefighters are Scared of Solar Rooftops.  It is a few years old, but the information is still relevant, as well as the concerns.

I am working on a more in-depth article for ARFF News that will speak more to the exercise itself, agencies involved and the response of the ARFF personnel of the Lakeland Fire Department.  I will state that not only was this an interesting FSE it was also extremely well executed.

Stay tuned to your ARFF News publications.



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