LAKELAND, Florida — Thursday morning, March 9, brought Lakeland’s finest to the SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus for the annual Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan meeting ahead of the 43rd annual SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In & Expo, which will be held April 4-9, 2017.
Representatives from all of Polk County’s emergency response teams attended the meeting, which included an hour-long mock drill.
Jeff Wharton of the Lakeland Fire Department and Rick Savage, representing Life Net 5, led the course and drill.
All SUN ‘n FUN staff members were required to attend the meeting and drill, and the 30-plus participants followed a carefully prepared procedure that has been developed in case of emergency during the fly-in.
The drill included a site-wide power outage and simultaneously a patron who was involved in a hit and run. The drill included Life Net 5 landing a helicopter on the campus to retrieve an injured spectator, Lakeland Fire Department fire trucks, and Lakeland Police Officers responding to the emergency in real time.
SUN ‘n FUN has always been dedicated to the safety of every person who enters of their campus and strives to improve safety regulations every year, says John “Lites” Leenhouts, president and CEO of SUN ‘n FUN.
“Safety doesn’t happen by accident,” Leenhouts stated. “It’s the result of trained professionals acting with good judgment and procedures that govern good operations in the air and on the ground. Professionals don’t make mistakes.”
The staff working during the SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In & Expo utilizes many different techniques to reach the public in the event of an emergency.
Patrons are encouraged to sign up for text message alerts, which will alert them to an emergency on the campus. They can also utilize social media to see updates on events in the area.
New to the event this year, the campus will have jumbotrons on the airfield to prepare fans for weather alerts and emergency situations.
The event will also include a siren on the campus for the first time. The siren will blare when there is a severe weather alert, warning people to move to an inside location on the campus.
Wharton believes drills are a great way to prepare for an emergency.
“Safety is the main goal for SUN ‘n FUN,” he said. “We want everyone to have a good time, but be aware of their surroundings. There are things during the fly-in that are not normal to an everyday theme park like airplanes, golf carts, four wheelers, etc.”
This year’s SUN ‘n FUN will include performances by the US Navy Blue Angels and the world’s largest gathering of P-51 Mustangs in close to a decade. Air show and workshop schedules, camping reservations, registration for activities, and ticketing information can be found on the SUN ‘n FUN website.