Airplane Crash Showcases Emergency Readiness

 

 
 
 

A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P, Editor-in-Chief, JEMS | | Thursday, January 15, 2009


JEMS.com Editor's Note: Also read about thepilot's background in crew resource management andNYPD, Coast Guard and FDNY boats.

When US Airways Flight 1549 did a controlled landing in New York's Hudson River on Thursday afternoon, a chain of events that only emergency personnel can appreciate occurred. It was a remarkable rescue effort that must be acknowledged.

Emergency crews from Fire Department New York (FDNY) fire and EMS, New York Police Department (NYPD) Harbor Unit, Coast Guard and other agencies converged on the scene before all escape hatches where even activated.

Flight 1549, an Airbus 320, had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport at 3:26 p.m. with 146 passengers and five crew members on board. It was heading for Charlotte, N.C. when birds reportedly entered the air intake of the jet engines, causing at least one to explode and both to shut down. The pilot told the passengers that they were going to have a hard landing and then glided the plane onto the Hudson as gently as he could.

FDNY fireboats and NYPD water craft immediately converged on the site and were joined by multiple sightseeing tour boats and passenger vessels. The passengers reportedly exited the aircraft in an orderly manner. Many entered the water on aircraft life rafts which we hear about but never see, and others crawled out onto the plane wings with their flotation devices on and inflate.

Although passengers were injured, early reports indicate that they are all minor to moderate injuries. Many of the rescued passengers were being treated for exposure due to the frigid weather and submersion of the jet in the Hudson River.

It was a textbook rescue that New York and New Jersey ground, air and water rescue personnel rehearse for on a regular basis unseen by the media and the public. FDNY declared a level III (All Hands) incident and had the city's specially designed Major Emergency Response Vehicles (MERVs) and Logistical Support Units (LSU) with their MCI supplies and massive shelters, stationed near Manhattan's Chelsea pier.

Vessels and emergency vehicles were staged on land and in the water in an organized manner and specially trained land and water rescue teams suited up immediately and expedited the rescue of the passengers and crew.

The alert crew of an FDNY fireboat tethered the aircraft to their vessel to keep it from sinking before all the rescues were completed, and to attempt to keep the plane above water for recovery and inspection by investigators.

It was a rescue effort that all the involved agencies and rescuers should be lauded for, particularly because everyone on board was saved. Those rescuers involved today who also responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11, when very few could be saved because of circumstances beyond their control, should be especially proud of their contributions to the rescues on the Hudson today.

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