By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Peterson AFB rescue vehicles raced to an accident scene early May 8 in response to a plume of thick black smoke, normally a bad sign at an airport.
In this case, the smoke was from an aircraft crash scenario designed to test emergency response capabilities, part of the City of Colorado Springs multi-agency exercise called SkyFall.
The City of Colorado Springs, Peterson AFB, Fort Carson, El Paso County and many other agencies partnered during the SkyFall mass-casualty exercise. The exercise was designed to allow personnel to test and train on their procedures in response to a simulated aircraft crash.
“The exercise was an incredibly well orchestrated and integrated exercise that enabled the 21st Space Wing to showcase our primary fire, crash and medical response capabilities,” said Col. Michael Burke, 21st Medical Group commander.
“In my 22-year career, this was the best and most challenging exercise I’ve seen involving multiple community organizations and a joint-military response. I think we all learned quite a bit as we worked thru the scenario. Most of all, we learned how much we need and can rely on each other as a community,” said Burke.
“It was important for Peterson to take part in SkyFall to test, trial and evaluate Peterson’s crash-fire-rescue response capabilities,” said Master Sgt. Shannon Anderson, Peterson AFB Fire Emergency Services assistant chief of operations and exercise evaluator.
The exercise also tested the Colorado Springs Airport and Colorado Springs emergency services’ crisis response capabilities in the event of a major aircraft incident, Anderson said.
The exercise was divided into two phases: a crash-site response near the Colorado Springs Airport; and a medical response with participants acting as patients in-processing at five local hospitals. About 140 “patients” in realistic makeup to simulate wounds were triaged and transported to area hospitals.
“A lot of invaluable experience was gained, truly testing and evaluating our collective community effort to effectively and efficiently mitigate and recover from a major incident,” said Anderson.
Hospitals in the Colorado Springs area also took part in the SkyFall exercise when patients arrived at area hospital’s emergency department by bus, helicopter and ambulance where they were assessed and treated by medical staff and personnel. Working as a collective team at all levels was the intent of SkyFall.
“Our relationship with the city and surrounding community is extremely important in all matters pertaining to emergency services — not only for these types of events — but for any potential emergencies that may arise and affect our community as a whole,” said Anderson. “This exercise was another avenue to validate our strong and robust community emergency services response capabilities.”
Testing communication, gaining experience and testing capabilities was the goal, but none of it would have been possible without the participation and willingness to learn from all of the agencies and personnel involved.
“I would like to thank all of our Peterson and Colorado Springs authority and emergency services responders that took part in an exercise of this magnitude. More than 900 responders and 46 vehicles took part in this exercise and executed it safely and efficiently,” said Anderson.