Airport drill simulates disaster
UMES students among 'victims' of exercise to work on response
Calum McKinney Staff Writer
Oct. 31, 2011 |
Rainbows form around the water being sprayed on a US Airways Express aircraft by Caleb Stockdill and Ken Delery on Sunday as part of a disaster preparedness drill at the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport.
Firefighters and emergency medical responders scrambled onto a twin prop US Airways Express passenger plane on the tarmac at the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport during a rescue drill Sunday.
Required to practice their response in the event of a disaster every three years, the Salisbury Fire Department joined the airport’s own emergency crews and rescuers from the Parsonsburg Fire Company.
Airport manager Bob Bryant said the Federal Aviation Administration requires the drill be performed using the largest aircraft to regularly fly out of the airport.
“In the 18 years I’ve been here, we’ve never had an accident this size,” he said. “But we have had incidents with smaller general aviation aircraft.”
This year, officials said there were five “passengers” that had to be carried off the plane, four “walking wounded” and three dead.
Bryant, who has also worked as an adjunct professor at UMES for about 14 years, brought along four of the university’s students — Brittany Howard, Malcome Allen, Deedra Mills, and Julian Fernandes — to play victims.
Howard, who plans to join the Air Force or Navy, acted as one of the dead passengers for the drill.
“The dead aren’t a priority,” she said, noting she was one of the last to be taken out on the cold October morning. “If the plane was burning and there were living passengers to rescue, I would have ended up cremated.”
Fernandes, a Guyana native who now lives in New Jersey and hopes to one day fly for a commercial airline, he said the drill was a good learning experience.
Playing a victim with a broken leg and head and neck injuries, he said it was a unique opportunity to get a first-hand view of how crews would respond in an actual disaster.
While there are three years between every test involving outside rescue crews,
Bryant said the airport tests its own crew every year. For that, he said they have a special fuselage with a propane feed that they use to create a realistic inferno. Crews then practice extinguishing the blaze from the turrett and hoses of the airports Striker vehicle, which would likely be the first to arrive on the scene of any disaster on the runway.