Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport is putting the Glocks, the medical bags and the big green firetrucks that douse burning planes in the hands of public safety specialists trained to do it all. Any member of the airport’s new public safety team can respond to a shooting, a plane crash or a passed-out traveler because each is part police officer, part firefighter and part emergency medical responder.
Any member of the airport’s new public safety team can respond to a shooting, a plane crash or a passed-out traveler because each is part police officer, part firefighter and part emergency medical responder.
“They can go from taking a life to saving a life,” airport Executive Director Tim Bradshaw said. For instance, “they can use their law enforcement skills to respond to something and then turn around and treat the person.”
Bradshaw expects the reorganization to save $370,000 yearly. Previously, the airport had its own police department, but contracted for aircraft rescue and firefighting at $700,000 a year and relied on city medical rescue personnel. Now, the airport has built a public safety department with all 15 staff trained in all disciplines. Employees work 24-hour shifts, broken up into eight hours in a police uniform and 16 hours on fire duty at the airfield firehouse.
The firefighting contract will end when the department assumes command at 7 a.m. Sunday, officials said. Assistance from city police, fire and rescue will continue to be available and used, officials said.
Cross-trained teams are an efficient solution for airports the size of Roanoke’s and are becoming common, in part because airports are compact, with controlled access and governed by state and federal regulations all personnel must be trained meet, said Dana Schrad, who directs the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.