Agencies drill for vessel mutual assistance plan at exercise

Oakland, Calif. – April 23, 2018: Coast Guard Sector San Francisco personnel hosted an interagency exercise at Yerba Buena Island Saturday, which was attended by approximately 100 personnel from 12 different agencies, including representatives from Oakland International Airport (OAK), San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), Alameda County Fire, and Members of the Bay Area Search and Rescue Council.

The focus of the exercise was to refine response techniques for a large-scale water rescue event in the near-shore, shallow waters of the San Francisco Bay while validating tactical interoperability and common response plans for local government, WETA and USCG resources as identified in the Vessel Mutual Assistance Plan (VMAP).

“Any major incident on the San Francisco bay is going to require multiple agencies to work together,” said Captain Tony Ceraolo, the Sector San Francisco commander. “During the miracle on the Hudson, the Coast Guard worked with local first responders and the ferry system to rescue more than 150 people. This exercise is a great example of Bay Area first responders and maritime industry leaders coordinating our resources and capabilities to protect the people in the Bay Area during a similar situation.”

The San Francisco Bay VMAP is a contingency plan describing actions to be taken by the Coast Guard, San Francisco Marine Exchange, Ferryboat Operators and local agencies for evacuating passengers during a mass rescue operation. This plan recognizes that such efforts would quickly overwhelm the capacity of a normal Coast Guard response and would require the assistance of nearby underway ferryboats. The VMAP is utilized not only in the instance of a stricken ferryboat, but in the event of any major airline casualty near the water.

“Safety is the first priority at any airport,” said Bryant L. Francis, Port of Oakland Director of Aviation at Oakland International Airport. “Coordinating and preparing for responses in conjunction with our regional partners is a critical element in keeping our customers and neighbors safe.”

After the exercise, all participating agencies conducted a joint evaluation to assess the effectiveness of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP). Partners specifically focused on the measures required to rapidly move victims of varying mobility from shallow draft surface rescue assets to high freeboard ferries, while at the same time engaging and coordinating shore side command staff at the incident command.

“This exercise is a great example of multiple organizations working together to protect the public in the event of a water emergency,” said Nina Rannells, WETA Executive Director. “WETA appreciates the cooperation and partnership among all of the agencies involved with VMAP.”

In addition to the agencies already mentioned, Oakland Fire Department, San Francisco Police Department, City of Alameda Fire Department, South San Francisco Fire Department, Richmond Fire Department, City of Berkeley Fire Department, and Vessel Assist participated in the exercise.

About Oakland International Airport

Oakland International is the fourth busiest airport in California and second busiest in the San Francisco Bay Area. Serving over 13 million travelers annually, OAK is the closest airport to the region’s top business and tourism venues. It is also the closest airport for most local residents.

Oakland’s air service roster to over 60 nonstop destinations is offered on 14 different airline brands – seven of which operate with OAK as their sole gateway into the San Francisco Bay region.

The vision of Oakland International Airport is to offer customers a world-class experience and be the airport of choice for Bay Area residents and visitors alike. OAK is operated by The Port of Oakland, which also oversees the Oakland seaport and 20 miles of waterfront. Together with its business partners, the Port supports more than 73,000 jobs in the region and nearly 827,000 jobs across the United States.

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