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First Responders: When Seconds Count
Post Aircraft Accident Response
FAA Aviation Safety Program Foreword
The purpose of this series of Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) Aviation Safety Program publications is to provide the aviation community with safety information that is informative, handy, and easy to review. Many of the publications in this series summarize material published in
various audio-visual products produced by the FAA and used in its Aviation Safety Program.
Some of the ideas and materials in this series were developed by the aviation industry. FAA acknowledges the support of the aviation industry and its various trade and membership groups in the production of this series.
Comments regarding these publications should be directed to the National Aviation Safety Program Manager, Federal Aviation Administration, Flight Standards Service, General Aviation and Commercial Division, Aviation Safety Program Branch, AF8-8i0, 600 Independence Avenue, 8W, Washington, DC 20591.
FIRST RESPONDERS: WHEN SECONDS COUNT: Post Aircraft Accident Response
Aircraft accidents may occur at airports where equipment and procedures are in place to handle a variety of situations.
However, many accidents occur in rural or remote areas~far from emergency services. Knowing what to do could save lives and affect the outcome of the crash Investigation.
Determining the cause of a crash is vital in preventing similar accidents from happening In the future. Having an emergency plan in place is crucial.
The job of First Responders is to help the injured, notify proper authorities, and secure the area until further help arrives. In other words: Rescue, Advise, and Guard. Since aircraft accidents are handled and investigated differently than other types of accidents, the following basic procedures will provide the best chances to save lives, prevent further injury, protect property, and preserve valuable evidence.
Step I - Rescue
• Use caution in approaching the wreckage by vehicle, particularly if the approach is along the crash path as survivors may have been thrown out and valuable evidence could be destroyed.
• Render standard first-aid to survivors until you are relieved by medical personnel.
• If there is a post-crash fire or indications of the possibility of fire or explosion from fuel vapor, move survivors a safe distance away; otherwise do not disturb them except as necessary for first aid.
• Verify that medical aid has been requested and is in route.
Points to consider during rescue:
If passengers are trapped inside, try to rescue them through an escape hatch on larger aircraft or through the main door on smaller aircraft. Door handles vary. Many are similar to an automotive door handle. Others may have a double-latch system. For this type, rotate the main latch in the top, center part of the door. Then pull the secondary latch outward like a car door handle. If doors are jammed, it may be necessary to break windows. Do so cautiously.
Many aircraft carry fire extinguishers. These are usually located behind or under the front seat. First-aid kits are often carried there too.
Beware of the propeller! Even if the master switch and magneto switches are off, the engine may start if the propeller is moved.
For agricultural accidents or other types of aircraft crashes where hazardous materials may be present, delay approaching the site until help arrives. Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth if rescuing passengers. The local law enforcement agency or fire department should notify appropriate agencies for handling or clean-up procedures.
For safety from electrical hazards or fire danger, turn off the aircraft's master or battery switch. It is usually located within the pilot's reach–-on the left bottom side of the instrument panel or the left bulkhead of the aircraft.
The master switch is usually red and a little larger than other electrical switches.
The battery switch may be a simple toggle switch. Avoid moving any other instruments.
Step II- Advise
• Where 9-1-1 is not available, contact local fire, police, and ambulance service. Keep a list of emergency numbers for normal working hours and off-duty hours.
Update it often.
• Contact the County Coroner/Medical Examiner if there are any fatalities. Caution them not to embalm any bodies. FAA will provide a kit called a "Tox Box" for pathological and toxicological tests.
• If the crash is a large-scale accident, alert area hospitals, the Red Cross, and any other community service organization in your area.
• Contact the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) for your area. The number can be obtained from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They will also have a toll-tree number for the Automated Flight Service Station or Regional Duty Officer for after hours calls. The FSDO will notify the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and any other necessary federal agencies.
The FSDO will need the following information, but contact them immediately even if all the information is not available.
• The "N" number Of the aircraft–-located on the tail
• The location of the accident
• A local contact name and telephone number–for obtaining further information and directions
• The aircraft type–i.e. single engine or mufti-engine, Cessna or Piper
• The number of injuries or fatalities
• When the crash was discovered or reported
Step III - Guard
• Secure the accident area. Treat the area as you would a crime scene–nothing should be moved or disturbed. No one should be allowed Inside the wreckage area other than those necessary for rescue and fire fighting.
• Establish a "no smoking" policy because of potential fire danger.
• The only thing that should be removed besides occupants is mail or other cargo to protect it from further damage. Log books and certificates can be removed if there is a danger of damage before the FAA and NTSB investigators arrive. Anything removed must be held and protected locally for examination by investigators.
• If it is necessary to disturb or move the aircraft or victims, first photograph, videotape, or sketch their positions as they were found. Be sure to indicate any impact marks.
• Give the news media only necessary information like the type of aircraft, it's "N" number, and the number of people involved. Do not release names of victims or any identifiable markings.
The operator of the aircraft is responsible for preserving (to the extent possible), any aircraft wreckage, cargo, mail, and records pertaining to the operation and maintenance of the aircraft. When the operator is not available, this function must be assumed until a representative of the FAA or NTSB arrives.
If a military aircraft is involved, always assume there are explosives on board. Do not raise, move, or tamper with arm rests. They may activate the ejection seats and can be extremely dangerous. Orange and yellow markings on the outside designate escape hatches.
Consider various types of equipment and services that may be necessary due to terrain, climate, and darkness. Airboats, snow mobiles, helicopters, and high-powered lights are a few examples of equipment that could be beneficial.
Be prepared for small and large-scale emergencies. Mutual Aid Agreements may be necessary to coordinate the efforts of several emergency service agencies with city, county, or nearby jurisdictions.
Above all, have an emergency plan. Have a list of emergency telephone numbers available and keep them current. Include numbers for normal working hours and off-duty hours.
Practice your plan so that everyone will know their role and responsibilities. And remember, aircraft accidents are handled and investigated differently than other types of accidents, so follow these guidelines to help save lives now and help prevent similar accidents in the future.
Aircraft Accident Plan
Advise: (List normal and off-duty phone numbers)
County Coroner/Medical Examiner _____________________
Local contact i.e. County Sheriff, Emergency Service
Coordinator, etc. _____________________________
Local Flight Standards
District Office (FSDO) _______________________
FAA Regional Duty Officer (24 hrs) ___1-800-________
Provide the FSDO with the foIIowing information:
• "N" number of the aircraft
• Location of the accident
• Local contact name and number (for directions or further info)
• Aircraft type (single- or multi-engine) or model (Cessna, Piper, etc.)
• Number of injuries or fatalities
• When it was discovered or reported
Note: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be notified by the FSDO or Regional Duty Officer when required.
Crash Site Checklist:
____ Secure the area/keep spectators out
____ Establish entrance and exit routes for emergency vehicles
____ Establish "NO SMOKING" rule due to fire danger
____ Prevent handling or disturbance of wreckage
____ Do not disturb instruments or throttle position
____ Secure any items removed for protection purposes such as log books, certificates, or mail
____ Alert coroner not to embalm any bodies. FAA will provide a Tox-Box for pathological and toxicological tests
____ Do not release names of victims to news media–only type of aircraft, "N" number, number of people involved
This is a Back to Basics, Aviation Safety Program Product Federal Aviation Administration
Aviation Safety Program (AFS-810)
800 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591
Contact your local FAA Flight Standards District Office's Safety Program Manager for more safety information.
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
Form No. FAA-P-8740-65