NEWS

Toronto Island airport emergency preparedness questioned

02/05/2015 08:56 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT
Critics are questioning whether Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is properly equipped to deal with a disaster, pointing to a recently uncovered report that raised similar questions more than 20 years ago.

Lawyer Brian Iler, who has long lobbied against expanding the Toronto Island airport, recently uncovered a 1993 report about whether it could respond to a large-scale plane crash, such as the disaster seen earlier this week in Taipei.

"The Taipei accident could easily happen here," Iler told CBC News.

The 58-page report recommended building a bridge because the airport's "present means of access" to the mainland — the island ferry — was insufficient for moving people and equipment in event of an emergency. The full report is included below. 

"You do require a number of emergency vehicles in the event of a major problem — the report talks about 40 to 50 within half an hour," Iler said. "You need a bridge. And without a bridge, the emergency response is utterly inadequate."

Today the airport is busier than ever. 

The once-bitter debate over a bridge is long off the table, though a new pedestrian tunnel is expected to open early this year.

"The tunnel will be great for us," said Peter Rotolo, operations commander of Toronto Paramedic Services.

There's a fire station with a full crew at the airport and, within one kilometre, another fire hall, a police station and paramedics. 

Rotolo admits the ferry could pose a delay for Toronto's emergency crews. 

But those services are "a well-oiled, functioning machine," he said. 

In the event of a crash, the Toronto Police Marine Unit would establish a command post on the water.

Citing security reasons, PortsToronto would not reveal its plans for responding to a crash at the airport.

But in a statement to CBC News, it said it does regular training exercises, "including a full-scale simulation every two years, to test our airport's protocols, procedures, communications and planning for emergency and security related incidents."

The last such training took place in November, making the next one due in late 2016. 

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