Representatives of the Prince Rupert Airport Authority came to the city council meeting last week to address a concern about safety at the airport that was raised during the municipal election.
At the all-candidates forum, one audience member’s question pointed about that the airport has no on-site paramedics or fire department service, meaning help would have to come from across the water in Prince Rupert.
More candidates admitted to not being aware that this concern existed than had a solution for it. Now with the election over, the new city council had the Airport Authority come in to explain what they would do if someone needed medical help at the airport or if there was a fire.
The airport representatives addressed the issue of emergency medical help first.
“All of our staff are required to have first aid certificates, as are the airline staff. There are no other airports other than Vancouver International Airport that have a paramedic based there. For safety we do have an automatic defibrillator on site and we do have a emergency response plan with paramedics and the RCMP,” says the Airport Authority’s vice president Shane Dienstadt.
Dienstadt points out that the airport has not had a fire fighter over there since the City acquired the airport in the 90’s. He also said that only airports who have 180,000 passengers a year are required by government regulations to have fire fighting equipment on-site; Prince Rupert sees about 60,000 passengers a year. The airport holds a yearly exercise with the fire department as well.
“I’ve never experienced any problem in my 12 years with not having fire fighting or paramedics on-site, we adhere to all Transport Canada regulations, and are inspected annually,” says Dienstadt.
Councillor Nelson Kinney got right to the heart of the matter by asking, “ what happens if there is a fire?”
“Well, if there’s fire in the building and it can’t be put out by our fire extinguishers, we’re going to collect the insurance I would guess. If there’s an aircraft fire, the chances it would be anywhere that we could get a fire truck at it would be slim-to-none. 98 per cent of airport accidents happen well off the runway,” explained Dienstadt.
Dienstadt says the reality is that it would simply cost too much to have a staffed fire station on-site at the airport.
“Its not just a matter of cost, its a matter of practicality. If you were to have an airport fire truck and staff there it would cost over a million dollars a year,” says Dienstadt.