Civilian Firefighters Train with the Navy
First responders in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake received some much-needed familiarization training on the hazards they could face when dealing with a Navy aircraft accident. While it’s been nine years, the Good Friday 2012 crash of a Navy fighter into a Virginia Beach apartment complex remains a fresh memory for some but a new challenge for others.
This year, Oceana Naval Air Station will be hosting a squadron of Navy E-2C Hawkeyes — the early warning turboprops with the saucer-shaped radar dome on top of their fuselages — as well as the C-2 Greyhounds that carry supplies and personnel to aircraft carriers at sea. These aircraft, like the fighter jets that always operate at Oceana, pose unfamiliar challenges to the region’s emergency workers.
Some of the hazards that city firefighters don’t typically encounter include aviation fuel and composite materials inside the aircraft. In addition, first responders need to know the layout and structure of the military aircraft.
The training includes tabletop exercises designed to test communications links, as well as what and whom to send where in response to accidents.
In the 2012 incident, years of the Navy’s training with city counterparts meant a quick response to contain fire, as well as setting up an incident command center in a nearby hospital emergency room and a decontamination tent in case people were covered in jet fuel. Fortunately, it wasn’t needed as there were no fatalities, only minor injuries and a handful of smoke inhalation cases.