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Emergency systems tested at O.R. Tambo International Airport
Friday, August 24, 2007 | 00:00  

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) in conjunction with other essential emergency services stakeholders have conducted a full-scale emergency simulation exercise at O.R. Tambo International Airport. Dubbed Operation Tswarapoho, the exercise was aimed at testing the airport’s readiness to undertake a full scale response to a heist incident.

In preparation for any aircraft disaster, ACSA is legislatively required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to perform a full scale simulation every two years at O.R. Tambo. However, according to O.R. Tambo’s Acting General Manager, Kriss Reddy, “In an effort to enhance our capabilities we have made the decision to test our emergency response procedures in tandem with various stakeholders on an annual basis.”

Following months of extensive planning, Operation Tswarapoho commenced just before 8pm last night, ending in the early hours of this morning and involved 15 of the key role-players that would typically be tasked with managing such a situation. The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department, Ekurhuleni Emergency Services, the South African Police Services, British Airways, Air Traffic Navigation Services, Immigration and the South African Revenue Services worked closely with the various ACSA Departments to effectively diffuse the simulated heist incident.

Spokesperson for the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (EMM), Zweli Dlamini said, “The EMM fully supports any endeavour that that maintains our high standards of service delivery, particularly within the ambit of safety and security,” adding that, “because safety is always a priority, an exercise of this stature is essential to maintaining the highest level of readiness on our part.”

“We regularly conduct internal drills to test our preparedness, but there is no substitute for full-scale exercises such as this one. They test every aspect of emergency planning and most importantly give the numerous agencies involved essential experience in working together. Any lessons learnt can then be incorporated into our respective emergency plans, ensuring that these are practical and effective,” said Sue Botes, British Airways Commercial Manager, South Africa.

Emergency Scenario
The exercise simulated a group of four men taking control of a British Airways aircraft upon landing at O.R. Tambo, with 57 passengers and seven crew members on board at the time. Their motive was to steal diamonds that they believed were on board the aircraft. During the exercise, a number of incidents unfolded so as to test various emergency systems, such as medical services, negotiation and fire and rescue services.
“The evaluating team that was used to independently monitor and assess the exercise will provide us with valuable feedback for a comprehensive debrief session. This will allow us to proactively identify which systems have worked and systems can be strengthened in the context of the airport emergency response system, said Reddy.

He concluded, “We believe that these annual simulation exercises enable O.R. Tambo to uphold world class emergency preparedness and security standards.”

For enquiries, contact:
Nothemba Noruwana
Communications Manager
Airports Company South Africa
Tel: 011 921 6087 / 0798827307
E-mail: nothemba.noruwana@airports.co.za

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