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See smoke coming from SLO airport Wednesday? It’s just a drill.

Courtesy: San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport
San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is conducting an emergency drill Wednesday, May 19.

The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, or SBP, is conducting an emergency drill Wednesday, May 19.

If you see smoke and emergency vehicles between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., it’s likely part of the airport’s full-scale emergency response exercise.

Courtney Pene is the deputy director of planning and outreach at the airport. She said the goal of the drill is to test the capability of the airport and local response agencies to deal with a potential emergency or disaster.

“The goal is really to ensure that we can work effectively together, partner effectively together,” Pene said. “Health and safety, of course, is always going to be our top priority.”

Local volunteers and emergency responders will participate in the drill. The exercise will evaluate things like agency coordination, mass-casualty response, security, public communication and victim and family care.

Pene said airport operations staff have been designing the exercise for months but it’s been kept relatively secret to prevent too much preparation.

12 agencies are participating in the drill including Cal Fire, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and several airlines.

The drill will happen entirely within the boundaries of the airport but Pene said people may still see some of the activity.

“If they see smoke, if they see lots of first responders coming to the airport, don’t be alerted,” Pene said.

Pene said the airport will continue normal operations during the drill, so there’s no need to worry if you have a flight planned.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all airports to do this kind of full-scale exercise at least once every three years to test emergency preparedness.

Pene said SBP has additional training exercises internally on a more frequent basis to prepare for all types of emergencies.

“It can be an airplane crash. It can be an aircraft [that] pops a tire on the tarmac,” Pene said. “Maybe there’s a vehicle emergency, or maybe a wildlife strike from a bird. There [are] really lots of different scenarios that we can be honing our skills on and practicing.”

The drill is expected to last about three hours.