It’s only an exercise: Gerald Ford Airport to test emergency management system on May 18

Crews attend to ‘victims’ during GFIA’s last emergency exercise in May 2014

By Tara Hernandez, GFIA


In accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA), in partnership with several mutual aid responders, will hold its tri-annual, full-scale emergency exercise. The exercise is scheduled for Thursday, May 18, 2017, at 9 a.m. on one of the Airport’s runways.


The purpose of the exercise is to test the emergency management system in a stress environment with actual deployment of resources to demonstrate coordination and response capabilities.


The emergency exercise is not expected to disrupt local vehicle traffic, but those on and near Patterson Ave. at the airport’s west entrance could see smoke, flames, and emergency responders on both Wednesday, May 17th in preparation for the exercise, in addition to the day of the drill on Thursday, May 18th. GFIA is reminding patrons in the area that this is only an exercise.


“The purpose of this exercise is to not only comply with the highest FAA standards in safety and security, but to also identify our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to responding and preparing for an emergency,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill.


“This exercise will not only further train our airport personnel in their roles and responsibilities, but it will give us a chance to collaborate with other local agencies.  Coordination, consistency, and communication are essential in real-time situations when working with our mutual aid partners.”


Overview of training locations

In the past, emergency exercises have been held both off and on GFIA grounds. This year’s emergency exercise will simulate an aircraft incident on Runway 8L/26R. A simulator will be on site to produce mock rescue scenarios, and several students from the West Michigan Aviation Academy are ‘victims’ during the exercise.


“Our personnel work daily to prepare for situations such as these, and we are eager to test out our emergency system so we are best prepared for real-life incidents,” said GFIA Public Safety & Operations Director Lisa Carr. “We appreciate the partnership of all of those involved in this drill, and we look forward to evaluating our strengths and weaknesses so we can ensure the highest levels of safety at our airport.”


In addition to GFIA operations, airport police, and airport rescue and firefighting; participants will include the Kent County Emergency Management Team, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Cascade Township Fire Department, Federal Aviation Administration, Kent County Sheriff’s Department, Kentwood Fire Department, Michigan State Police, Life EMS, Kent County EMS, Kent County Dispatch Authority, Medical Reserve Corps, and the West Michigan Aviation Academy.