NORFOLK -- Navy first responders practiced how they'd react if there was an aviation disaster at the Naval Support Activity command at Naval Station Norfolk. A helicopter trainer was set ablaze on a helo pad behind the Captain Slade Cutter Athletic Park.
Firefighters from Navy Mid Atlantic Region District responded, and put out the fire as if it were real. The exercise was conducted in order to test and improve the community's overall preparedness for an emergency event.
"This is a great opportunity," said District Fire Chief Michael Pope. "It's a great opportunity for us and our personnel to get out here and train like we're going to react in a real world event."
And although participants knew it was fictitious, everybody took the training very seriously, remembering that it was just in March, 2012 that such a thing happened for real, when an Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet crashed into Mayfair Mews Apartments in Virginia Beach.
"It can happen; that's what we train for," said Pope. "To be prepared if it does happen, so we can be here to protect the military and surrounding communities. We hope it will not happen, but there's always that chance and we want to be one hundred percent ready to respond to it."
The location for today's training was just behind a tree line off Camp Allen, across Interstate 564 from Chambers Field, home to intense everyday aviation operations. According to the Naval Safety Center, serious Navy aviation accidents are on the rise. Statistics kept by that command show that this fiscal year, there have been eleven Class A mishaps, with four deaths. That compares with four Class A mishaps and three deaths last year.
"It is important that installations develop an "all hazard" approach to emergency management training," said CAPT Jake Johansson, Commanding Officer of Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads. "This exercise will not only address our ability to respond to an aviation incident, but it will also exercise our ability to work together in a disaster environment."