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Helicopter disaster support exercise at Discovery, Magnuson parks today

Today (Wednesday), the city will hold a helicopter disaster support exercise at both Discovery Park in Magnolia and Magnuson Park at Sand Point. So don’t be alarmed if you see helicopters buzzing in and out of the parks and over our neighborhood.

The helicopters will take off from Joint Base Lewis McChord around 2 p.m. and land at the parks between 2:45-3 p.m. and again between 3-3:30 p.m.

The Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Washington National Guard and Northwest Regional Aviation will conduct a joint helicopter and communications exercise to better prepare the City of Seattle, first responders and our regional partners in the event of a major disaster that displaces a large portion of the population, and requires search and rescue operations, transport of supplies, and transport of injured victims. The exercise is part of a statewide preparedness exercise organized by Northwest Regional Aviation in preparation for a National Cascadia Subduction Zone exercise in June 2016.

The exercise uses two major regional parks in Seattle in the vicinity of emergency shelters in the city as landing zones. The two parks are Magnuson Park in northeast Seattle and Discovery Park in Magnolia. Jefferson Park in south Seattle will serve as the “operations center,” where overall event coordination will take place.

The exercise will involve the flying of two helicopters, one Blackhawk and one Lakota, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to Seattle. The pilots are in the Washington National Guard’s 66thAviation unit. Seattle Fire will be in charge of air operations and helispot management. Seattle Fire and Washington National Guard communications teams will provide separate interoperable radio communications between helicopters and ground personnel. One helicopter will land at Magnuson Park and one will land at Discovery Park. Each helicopter will then fly to and land at the opposite park site.

Seattle Parks and Recreation will be hosting the event and establishing the operations center in Jefferson Park as the communications and coordination site for the exercise. Seattle Fire, the Washington National Guard, and Northwest Regional Aviation have coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission as appropriate and have worked with Boeing Field, Sea-Tac Airport, and King County Airport regarding airspace.

The communications exercise will test communications to, from and between helicopters as well as test each of the player’s ability to talk with each other on Seattle 800MhZ communication networks, VHF/UHF radio channels, and video downlink capabilities.

After the second helicopter landings, there will be a public education opportunity at Magnuson Park near the landing site where the public can talk to exercise participants including SFD firefighters, helicopter pilots, Washington National Guard Homeland Response Force.