PORT TOWNSEND — Volunteer pilots active in the Disaster Airlift Response Team will bring close to 3,000 pounds of donated food and non-perishable goods to the Jefferson County International Airport on Saturday.
The items will be picked up by the Jefferson County Food Banks Association and distributed to Brinnon, Quilcene, Tri-Area and Port Townsend locations, said Laura Guth, the aviation coordinator for Jefferson County’s Department of Emergency Management.
The exercise also serves as training for general aviators who could be part of a regional response to help provide supplies in more rural areas during emergencies, she said.
Guth said areas such as the North Olympic Peninsula could rely on these types of services for at least 30 days after a major disaster, such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, occurs.
“State and federal resources and going to go where they’re going to do the most good,” Guth said.
That generally means major transportation corridors such as Interstate 5 and Seattle, she said.
Several pilots will donate their time and aircraft for Saturday’s event, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the airport, 191 Airport Cutoff Road, Port Townsend.
Incoming flights will be coming from Clallam and Kitsap counties as well as Bellingham, Walla Walla and California, Guth said.
“The idea is to learn whether it’s viable to fly stuff in and fly people out,” she said.
General aviation has been used in this manner in several recent natural disasters, including hurricanes in the Carolinas and flooding in Texas, Guth said.
Private aviators flew in the first search-and-rescue teams in the Bahamas plus 500,000 pounds of supplies following Hurricane Dorian earlier this month, she said.
Supplemental training for ground crews who want to help but aren’t used to dealing with aircraft also will be available on Saturday, Guth said.
The volunteers can be trained in Airport Community Emergency Response Team principles to work with the pilots, she said.
Clallam County was the receiving airport last year during the first event of its kind, although pilots will have to work with an uncontrolled airport — without a communications tower — at Jefferson County, Guth said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how we can manage the traffic, although I have full confidence we’ll be able to do it.”