SFO drill simulates major earthquake at airport

In a step toward lessening local disruption caused by natural disasters, San Francisco International Airport conducted an earthquake-simulating emergency exercise Wednesday morning.

SFO officials said myriad agencies worked in coordination during the exercise between 9 a.m. and noon. The drill tested procedures for communicating, responding, recovering and resuming normal operations after a damaging seismic event.

SFO conducts the emergency exercise annually, despite federal regulations only calling on airports to conduct such exercises every three years. SFO picks a different emergency scenario for each drill and chose an earthquake this year.

During the drill, an unoccupied wing of the airport’s Terminal 1 was the site of mock facility damage, where volunteers, complete with makeup, played the role of injured passengers.

Another portion of the exercise’s 50 volunteers were used onboard a Boeing 767 training aircraft, which was simulating a flight stranded on the tarmac following an earthquake.

Some of the agencies that assisted in today’s exercise included the San Francisco Police Department’s airport bureau, the city’s Fire Department’s airport division and area hospitals. Various state and federal agencies also played a part in the exercise.

Southwest Airlines was the exercise’s lead airliner, practicing procedures for reuniting passengers with family members.

The drill allowed SFO to complete a trial run of a recently acquired $1.7 million mobile platform for emergency responders to lead, direct and communicate response efforts.

SFO officials also said the test demonstrated the capabilities of the airport’s emergency operations center, which was opened in 2000.