MIKE BURLEY / MBURLEY@STARBULLETIN.COM
Alex Young, top, checked on Kyle Calkins, 23, who played the role of a patient, as local, state and federal agencies participated yesterday in a joint exercise on how to handle a plane full of people who have been exposed to bird flu at Honolulu Airport.
Teams use airport to stage bird flu drill
Local, state and federal workers and military and civilian health care personnel worked as a team in a bird flu drill yesterday at Honolulu Airport.
The drill, Lightning Rescue '08, simulated what would happen if an airliner from Asia arrived at Honolulu Airport bearing more than 300 passengers with some experiencing symptoms of avian influenza or "bird flu."
"We take it very seriously," said Dr. James Ireland, medical director at Honolulu Airport. "It's unlikely that something like this would happen but we want to be ready."
Dozens of emergency response personnel from different agencies, clad in protective masks and gear, administered first aid to mock patients who were civilian or military volunteers.
The simulation included setting up an emergency intensive care unit in the airport gate called an "Isolation Treatment Facility," with full emergency care facilities designed to run continuously for up to five days, at which time any patients requiring further care would be transferred to a hospital.
Toby Clairmont, director of the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team, said it would take about two hours to set up the response facilities. The arrival gate used for the drill has a separate air vent system from the rest of the airport, and the air conditioning was turned off to prevent contamination.
The coordinated response plan included personnel from the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team, federal Centers for Disease Control, airport paramedics, airport firefighters, medical personnel from neighbor island and Oahu hospitals, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents, Joint Task Force-Homeland Defense and others.
On Friday, Lightning Rescue '08 will continue with a second simulation staged at the Naval Pacific Missile Range facility on Kauai. The exercise will examine what happens if there is an excessive amount of bird flu-contaminated flights coming in to Honolulu Airport. The overflow would be diverted to Kauai, where an emergency isolation "Safe Haven" would be set up to quarantine and treat the infected.