TORRANCE AIRPORT: A KEY DISASTER RESPONSE ASSET

General aviation pilots, aircraft, and airports (such as Torrance Airport) are viewed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as key resources in event of a national or regional disaster emergency. The article below describes how these assets were mobilized in response to a practice emergency. During a wide-spread emergency in Southern California, such as a large earthquake, Torrance Airport could provide these same services in our area.

Many other cities and operators of municipal airports have included general aviation assets in their emergency plans as described in this article. The City of Torrance has not yet done so.

GA Shines in FEMA Disaster Relief Drill
By Stephen Pope / Published: May 25, 2011

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is embracing general aviation as part of its disaster planning preparations after conducting a successful large-scale disaster drill that included private aircraft dealing with a simulated national emergency.

"Our GA 'ready fleet' performed superbly," said Marianne Stevenson, president of AERObridge, a group that coordinates use of private aircraft in emergencies. She spent last week at FEMA's Washington, D.C., master control center, helping integrate volunteer pilots and aircraft with several government agencies during the coordinated disaster drill across several states. "Within the first 24 hours, we had 100 pilots acknowledge they could fly the missions we were asking."<>

The FEMA-sponsored drill tested federal, state and local inter-agency coordination for a major earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Conditions included a Richter Scale 7.7 earthquake just northwest of Memphis, Tennessee, which devastated the Mississippi valley. In the drill, major damage was reported in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Stevenson said volunteer GA pilots identified 10 airports in the disaster area that could be used as "staging fields," and then launched a series of round-robin missions to carry about 2,300 rescue workers into the crisis zones in addition to about 178,000 pounds of supplies each day. The aircraft also evacuated a large number of quake "victims."

In the exercise, GA aircraft participated in coordination with other relief operations conducted by FEMA and local authorities. In previous disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, aircraft volunteered by companies and individuals flew rescue missions on their own because government agencies had not considered using general aviation for bringing critical supplies, medicine and food into a disaster area.

"Our government has an amazing capability to respond to a crisis, whether it's a terrorist attack, a hurricane or an earthquake," said Stevenson. "We're just helping the government respond more rapidly using GA assets that they had never before considered."

FEMA saw the value of general aviation firsthand in the aftermath of last year's earthquake in Haiti, when hundreds of private aircraft flew in emergency supplies in the days and weeks after the disaster.