Expatica news

No time for drills at Zaventem

26 February 2007

BRUSSELS – There hasn’t been a single evacuation drill at Zaventem airport since 1991. “We don’t have time” is the answer from Brussels’ airport.

“Every time during our meeting with Brussels Airport every two weeks I broach the lack of evacuation procedures. I ask that the existing procedures be reviewed and practiced, but I’m always told that they don’t have time because they are reorganising the company,” says Partick Hereng, spokesperson for all the airlines at Zaventem.

He has worked at Zaventem airport since 1991 and has never participated in an evacuation drill in preparation for a fire or bomb alert.

“It isn’t easy to conduct such a drill in an operational business like an airport. But it is possible to sit down with the various parties and examine who does what and at what point if there is a disaster.” Nor has this kind of consultation taken place.

The result of this shortcoming became painfully clear at about 7.00 p.m. on Friday evening when a package on the transport belt was identified as containing a detonation mechanism.

The airport building was evacuated, partially at least, a number of passengers and airline staff were locked in the building. “If something had happened they would have had nowhere to go,” Hereng says. “The security personnel didn’t know what to do. They ran around in a panic.”

A spokesperson for Brussels Airport did not want to comment on Sunday.

An airport worker told VTM news on Sunday that Zaventem is not prepared for a bomb attack and that evacuation procedures are urgently needed.

Lodewijk De Witte, governor of the province of Vlaams-Brabant, will meet with the services involved today to discuss the procedures followed in the evacuation. “We will talk about how things went, how communication took place, and how this can be improved in future,” the governor said.

Hereng will try to attend the meeting today. “The airlines want to cooperate with the procedures, but we do have to be able to practice them,” Hereng said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2007]

Subject: Belgian news