One by one, more than 30 helicopters from public safety agencies throughout Southern California and beyond systematically descended to the grass field adjacent to the Rose Bowl.
With the Rose Bowl designated as a staging area for a large disaster or mass casualty situation, the coordinated landing and takeoff on April 24 were the key component of the 30th annual disaster response exercise and fly-in.
Pasadena PD’s air operations unit has hosted the exercise since its inception in order to familiarize flight crews from outside agencies with the location of the Rose Bowl and the procedures employed in descending to the field.
The exercise takes place to train helicopter pilots on the proper protocols of landing at the Rose Bowl in the event of an earthquake, fire, active shooter or any emergency situation in which multiple aircraft would be needed.
“You can’t turn the TV on nowadays without seeing some sort of disaster or active shooter situation where we need to transport people or things,” said Lt. Mike Ingram of Pasadena PD, who oversees the air operations unit. “If the roads are compromised and we need to transport stuff around, we can secure this landing zone and move stuff and do it in a safe and orderly fashion.”
If roads were compromised due to an earthquake or other disaster, helicopters can be used to transport people and supplies, Ingram said.
And if there was a mass casualty situation and local hospitals couldn’t take on any more victims, helicopters could transport injured people to hospitals farther away.
The annual training also gives other agencies such as, Fresno Sheriff, Riverside PD and Sheriffs, Fontana PD, FBI, and LA City and County Fire crews the opportunity to compare protocols.
“We all do things a little bit different, but similar,” Ingram said. “So being able to talk the same language, work through our processes to make sure our plans are appropriate and safe is a good way for us to vet what we do. There are always lessons to be learned.”
The operation also serves as one element of the multi-agency active shooter training exercise that takes place in May inside the Rose Bowl stadium.
While on the ground, flight crews and other police personnel visited with the vendors, who were displaying a variety of equipment and even helicopters themselves.
The vendors also picked up the tab for the event
“It’s all paid for by the vendors,” Ingram said. “It gives them an opportunity to meet with all of us in one place.”
Agencies represented included police departments from Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pomona and Ontario as well as sheriff’s departments from Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento.
“This is about something we know that is coming,” Pasadena Police Chief John Perez said. Whether it’s an earthquake, or terrorist event or active shooter, we have to prepare and not wait for it to happen. This is about studying. This is about knowing.”