Transcript Of The Interview With The Leader Of The First Fully Adopted DART in Washington State
Submitted by Sky Terry – – Over the years of running drills with seaplanes in Washington State I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing individuals. This project started so long ago and has grown into a national and even international effort. Below is an interview with Alan Barnard who is the Aviation Coordinator for Clallam County in Washington and the first to have a DART become part of the county’s comprehensive emergency management plan or CEMP. This is a huge first and with about 20 pilots and 25 aircraft they definitely will be saving lives.
Today, January 30. of 2018 Alan Barnard left the Clallam County courthouse, where the Board of Commissioners just approved the Disaster Airlift Response Plan annexation into the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan! Below you find the transcript of the questions Alan was asked during our event at the Seattle Museum of Flight on January 20th, which I reported here.
What was the trigger or triggers that gave you the idea to start down this road?
As Aviation Coordinator for Clallam County Emergency Management, I started over 10 years ago designing my own volunteer pilot’s disaster response because there were none that I could find around the country from which to pull information. After 1 ½ years’ work I had to abandon it due to Washington State policies at the time requiring Search and Rescue pilots only under a disaster scenario. Then early in 2017 my local Emergency Management Program Manager sent me an email telling me of the cal.pilots DART/DARP program provided to her by Sky Terry from EVAC. Bingo! That is what I needed and I was able to adapt their program so long as we agreed to assist neighboring jurisdictions in time of need.
What has this been like for you as this has made this landmark achievement and gained the needed acceptance to start being the critical resource GA can be?
It has been a very busy year since then reviewing and adapting this terrific plan for our local needs, recruiting pilots and ground crew, locating landing opportunities around our county and working with our Emergency Management personnel and the County Commissioners to annex the DARP to our Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. Our County was hungry for more solutions to assist our citizens in time of need knowing the limited resources we will have due to our remote location and the many micro-islands that will be created when our many bridges go down, isolating folks from emergency response for potentially weeks after an event. It did not take much convincing for this to have evolved to approval, just pertinent information, a plan framework to work with and willing folks to take part.
Could you explain what the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) is and how being a part of the affects the role your DART plays?
The Clallam County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan is very organized and pretty well developed. It includes all the players you would imagine including military, medical, public safety, ham radio, rescue personnel, etc. plus a strong emphasis in personal preparedness by individual citizens to take care of themselves for at least 30 days after a major event. Developing rapidly are CERT’s which are Citizen Emergency Response Teams where groups of local citizens in an area form to look out for one another during a major event. The reality is that directly following a Cascadia size earthquake event and/or major tsunami, when the bridges are knocked out we have over 20 micro-islands around our county where entire areas are cut off from vehicular traffic for disaster response. It is predicted that military aircraft relief may not arrive for two to three weeks so in the immediate aftermath of such an event, we have no other way to get emergency personnel and medical supplies in nor evacuate injured folks out. Utilizing a private pilot and aircraft response can go a long way towards filling that void for the first few weeks and saving countless lives as a result. The Disaster Airlift Response Team is the missing piece in a comprehensive plan for our County and many others I might add.
How do you see the importance of drills and live training with this environment prior to the need occurring?
While the concept is a relatively simple one, implementation can get more complex because it is complicated by the realities we will face in the aftermath of a major event. Even lesser events where a DART could be used still are undertaken under stressful conditions as you can imagine. Just understanding the concepts and procedures is an important start but without real time operational training, involved personnel will likely not understand and be able to effectively cope with all that must happen for this endeavor to be successful. In addition, training exercises highlight areas for improvement in our planning and execution of the DARP (Disaster Airlift Response Plan) and allow us to resolve issues. There is no substitute for “hands on” experience especially considering the difficulties that will exist during a real event.
How do you see this resource being utilized as it comes to the Cascadia Subduction Zone Fault or otherwise known as the “big one”?
When the Emergency Manager activates the DART, we are authorized to gather and fly under direction from County Emergency Management. In general, County Emergency Management will determine where the needs are and the DART will allocate pilots and aircraft resources to accomplish those requested needs. Under the “big one” scenario it becomes more problematic because some pilots may be cut off and stranded in their home areas and may not be available at the onset. While we can plan for this as much as possible, no one really knows had bad it is going to be so we will put the call out and work with all that are able to show up sooner and later. There are no guarantees on how many pilots we will have or what the condition of landing locations will be, so much of what will be accomplished will be determined on the spot and adjusted to the real circumstances. Of course, damage assessment will be an immediate priority so we can have pilots in the air and over-flying the entire county to observe and relay back to command what conditions exist and everything will be determined from that information.
What is one of the biggest break throughs you’ve seen as this has been worked on?
The collaboration between the many entities who deal with public assistance flying I think demonstrates that the importance of using private pilots, airplane and resources for disaster response is not only an additional benefit to our citizens but with tight budgets and expanding population demands, a beacon of hope to save lives in the future. From national to local, this increased emphasis on this valuable resource is coming of age and government regulations and planning it appears to me are beginning to adjust to encourage this resource. Much more is needed, like allowing private pilots to be reimbursed for fuel when they are flying missions to assist citizens. This is generally not allowed but given the expanding needs and developing DART programs and many other life-saving programs involving general aviation resources, this is a priority. When disaster strikes, it is “all hands-on deck” and general aviation plays an important part and fills an immediate need that is being recognized and critical in disaster response.
What would you like to see most occur as this goes forward?
The strength of the DART concept I believe lays in the aggregate response when many regional DART’s are formed, each assisting others in time of need. Accomplishing the first DART in Washington State certainly is an honor for my county but I see that as the first domino to tumble in the development of many more in this region. Strength in numbers and collaboration coupled with the synergy of ideas and commitment is where this needs to go to realize the true value of this concept. I have been asked to speak to several counties in this region to explain how this is working for my county and how they can get started. I feel a strong responsibility to visit those jurisdictions that are reaching out for guidance and help them “cut to the chase” in getting this started. I have joined John Crooks, the EOC Supervisor in Jefferson County for 3 such presentations over the last few months and John is supportive for this program in Jefferson County and elsewhere as well.
I have suggested to John and Sky Terry on EVAC that we form a support type group in this region that can serve as a clearinghouse for information and to be a resource to assist other jurisdictions who want to get started to develop their own DART programs. Over time it can also become an advocacy group to support and encourage necessary changes in government regulations to encourage more jurisdictions and pilots to take part. Our steering committee plans to meet in the near future to flesh out how this support group will look and operate and from there move to formalize it and get busy assisting others. Sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm is a great calling and like Sky Terry who has carried the torch for this life-saving concept for many years, myself and others are grabbing the torch and taking a lap in support of making incremental progress in this worthy venture for which we will all be better off in the future with its building successes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this effort and a very special thank you to Alan Barnard for taking the time to share his thoughts. Some day when the time comes, people will live because of this work. In fact the concept of general aviation as an important part of disaster response has already been successfully used in the California mudslides to save lives, as you can see here. So in the final analysis I would say it is safe to say general aviation is becoming a very important part of any large disaster response and will make a very positive difference.
Sky Terry is the Emergency and Disaster Response editor at Seaplanemagazine.com. If you wish to get involved in the effort or begin developing a plan to start your own Emergency Response Team, please contact him via Email. To learn more about the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps visit EVAC.org