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Friday, April 25, 2014

Airport’s lack of water rescue plan raises concerns

For the many years that the Commonwealth Ports Authority has been in operation, there has been no certified water rescue plan in place at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, according to CPA board members who expressed frustration over the long absence of an important requirement.

Board member Benigno Sablan, chairman of the board seaports facilities committee, disclosed that, compared to Guam and Pohnpei, CPA has yet to develop a water rescue plan.

Based on Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, airport officials responsible for emergency preparedness must develop an airport emergency plan that includes a section on water rescue. This should specify any specialized rescue training and equipment needed to provide safe water rescue services, given the airport’s proximity to bodies of water. The plan should also address the unique character or type of water around the airport as it may be a critical factor in emergency planning.

Juan T. Dela Cruz, the assistant chief of operations for the Airport Ports Police, was called in to shed light on the water rescue plan issue. The official admitted that he has not seen such a plan and is not aware if one is being developed by the ports police. Dela Cruz told the board that he will communicate the board’s concern to his superior.

“For the last two years, we are concerned that no water rescue plan has been certified by FAA, unlike Guam and Pohnpei. I asked the administration to get a copy of the certification [of either these two] and take a look at it and maybe have it in our plan,” said Sablan, who said he was earlier made to believe and understand that CPA has such a plan in place.

According to acting board chair Manny Villagomez, the importance of a water rescue plan was emphasized by the Federal Aviation Administration during its conference in Guam last year. Villagomez, along with other board members, was among the event’s participants.

“In that conference, it’s mandatory that we have a water rescue plan. I think it’s long overdue and we need to act now. I don’t know why it takes us so long to have our own waster rescue plan,” Villagomez said.

The board on Friday instructed the ports police official to come up with water rescue plan by the end of February. Certification of this plan is targeted to be completed three months after its submission to the board.

“I would like to see this water rescue plan be certified by FAA after three months,” said Sablan.

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