COYLE — Some 30 people preparing to help their communities when a massive earthquake eventually rocks Western Washington attended a ground crew training session over the weekend.
The training, held in Coyle — a community about 9 miles southeast of Quilcene — on Saturday, was a first on the North Olympic Peninsula for crews supporting Jefferson County and Clallam County Disaster Airlift Response Teams, said Sky Terry, northwest regional emergency services director for the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps (EVAC).
“When everything goes to hell in a handbasket, they’ll know what to do because they’ll have the muscle memory,” he said. “When the real thing happens, that’s what they’re going to fall back on.”
Clallam County became the first county in the state to adopt a Disaster Airlift Response Plan earlier this year, and work is underway for Jefferson County to adopt its own plan, Terry said.
The DART is a team of local pilots that would transfer supplies and resources in and out of affected areas and help injured people to safety, he said.
The first DART efforts were pioneered in California and adopted by the California Pilots Association to respond to a “cataclysmic event which degrades regional transportation,” according to the association’s website.
Though Jefferson County doesn’t yet have plans solidified, Terry said there are still ground crews who are willing to help out.
The crews learned in a classroom setting how to safely load and unload various aircraft and had a short mass casualty exercise.
Terry said the goal was to get everyone prepared for hands-on training at Kenmore Air in Seattle on April 28.
“We went over safety protocol and working in and around these aircraft,” he said. “It was specific to what we’re going to do at Kenmore Air, but still general enough that it’s what they would do anywhere.”
Terry said that in the event of a disaster, the ground crews in Clallam and Jefferson counties will be critical to allowing the Disaster Airlift Response Teams to operate as smoothly as possible.
He said that if there is a disaster, the ground crews would be able to load and unload aircraft so quickly that pilots wouldn’t need to leave their cockpits.
Alan Barnard, chair of the Clallam County DART, said recruiting and training volunteer pilots and ground support will be paramount to the plan’s success.
“This orientation class on ground support operations gives an excellent overview of what is expected in loading and unloading people and supplies into a variety of aircraft types safely,” he said. “We will be attending more advanced training in the future offered by EVAC while concurrently using this information to develop our own training in Clallam County.
“Collaboration and sharing information is key, as we are all in this together,” he said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.