Monday, September 19, 2011

Thoughts on the Reno Air Races disaster

Its been a few days since the news of the disaster up in Reno, NV hit the web like a wildfire. The death toll currently stands at 9, with several patients in remaining critical condition. The number of patients transported under EMS was reported to be 56, with local hospitals reportedly treating 69 patients. It appears that some patients serf-transported.

An anonymous reader sent me THIS LINK  to a recording of the radio traffic from the incident. It appears that everybody operated in a relatively calm and functional fashion during the incident and maintained control.

L.A. Times reported that all patients who were transported by EMS were off-site within 62 minutes, a remarkable event considering the magnitude of the incident. This performance was not by accident, a regional MCI exercise held in May, rehearsed the same emergency, a plane into the crowd. Planning with event organizers, daily briefings and on-site responders, staged and ready to go all helped the effectiveness of the response.

The exercise held in May was exceptionally effective, in that it dealt with a real live possibility, one that was relevant to the risks that the participating agencies faced. That it apparently involved not only responders, but EMS authorities and hospitals further aided the response and treatment of patients.

The actions of the response to the incident will be placed under a microscope, and examined by regulators, politicians and lawyers representing the victims. Hopefully, the time spent in preparation of the incident will help reduce the amount of strife that the aftermath will surely produce.

The NTSB and associated agencies are conducting the investigation, it will be many months for the definitive cause of the crash is announced. As this was an event attended by many affluent and technologically savvy people, it was well documented through still photographs and video. Several images of the aircraft, taken seconds before the impact, show a part from one of the control surfaces separating from the aircraft. This has caused many to speculate on the cause. The investigation will certainly examine those images, as well as the remains of the aircraft to determine whether the failure was the cause of the event or a result of another failure or event.

In a thorough investigation, all components of the incident are examined, including maintenance records, the pilot's medical history and qualifications, prior damage to the aircraft, modifications to the aircraft (it appears to have been heavily modified), weather and any other factor that may have influenced the incident.

In addition, the event itself will be looked at to ensure that all applicable regulations were complied with and that the event was properly monitored for compliance.

The scope of the investigation is one reason that it takes so long for the report to be released. All bases must be covered, there is so much riding on the findings to no be thorough.

The media was quick to point out that there have been other fatal events at the Reno Air Races, though this is the first crash that involved spectator fatalities. There has already been speculation as to whether this event will ever be held again, at least in it's present form.

It is only a matter of time before the politicians will be stepping all over themselves, calling for regulation to "ensure that this does not happen again". With the number of victims involved, litigators are lining up to find clients who are seeking to be "made whole again", a process that usually only makes the attorney whole, the victim's loss not able to be corrected by litigation.

There are so many losers in a disaster like this. Obviously, the biggest losers are the victims who were killed and their families, followed by those who suffered permanent injuries and loss. The friends and families of the lost, the local economy, the fans, the industry and all of other stakeholders.

Through it all, the responders and bystanders who did what it took to reduce the effects of the disaster can hold up their heads, they did their job and they did it well. Strong work. 

Thanks for reading,

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