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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The Air Force on Wednesday practiced for the first time new off-base crash-response guidelines, put in place after a Marine helicopter slammed into a local university in 2004.

About 380 Okinawan and U.S. emergency responders and officials participated in the scripted exercise — a scenario in which a small plane crashes as it prepares to land, hitting two civilian cars.

But for all the attention focused on the drill, it’s a common event at Air Force bases worldwide.

“Whoever is outside the gate, we’re going to practice the procedures with them,” said Kadena spokesman Johnathan Monroe.

The guidelines were developed by U.S. Forces Japan with the Japanese government for all service branches on Okinawa.

In applying the guidelines, which specify a joint response, the drill helps to determine “who has responsibility where and how we’ll communicate,” said Col. Max Kirschbaum, commander of the 18th Mission Support Group. “Just by talking through these steps we further improved our relationship and our communication.”

The event’s planning has been going on since last spring, when the two groups held a tabletop exercise, he said.

The main goal was to demonstrate that the various emergency-response agencies could effectively work together, Kirschbaum said, noting one aspect was figuring out how he and the crisis-management director would share information.

Wednesday’s scenario was scripted down to the minute: at 8:26 a.m. the plane would crash; 8:30 a.m., the first fire truck would arrive; and so on.

“We want to exercise the exact provisions of the guidelines and do everything that’s called for,” Kirschbaum said.

Another key aspect of the drill was setting up two perimeters around the crash site. The guidelines dictate that the Okinawa police take responsibility for the outer cordon and the U.S. military takes the lead on the inner — a necessity given that the aircraft could have hazardous materials or classified components.

There is no specification for the inner cordon radius.

“Depending on the aircraft, we would determine a different buffer area,” 18th Wing Inspector General Lt. Col. Mark Arlinghaus said.

The drill was politically important for Kadena, he said.

“It demonstrates for the community our ability to effectively respond to any mishap,” he said.

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