Mock plane crash tests Gulfport first responders

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Firefighters and first responders in Gulfport tested their skills with a mock plane crash Tuesday morning at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

The FAA requires airports to stage a full scale disaster drill every three years. The exercise stresses communication and cooperation.

The drill involved a CRJ-700 airplane that had major problems at takeoff.

"Experiences some mechanical issues resulting in a fire. The pilots abort takeoff and it ends here on the north end of the runway," said Airport Operations Supervisor Ricky Rushing, who explained the scenario.

"It's unknown how much fuel is onboard," the radio sounded, as first responders scrambled to the scene.

Dozens of injured and dead were scattered around the fallen aircraft.

"Lacerations to right calf.  Bleeding profusely, back pain," one EMT told his partner, "Let's get her to the treatment area."

"Confirm the accountability," said a loud voice over the radio, "You may want to go outside the aircraft a little farther with your search," the authoritative voice directed.

"Hang in there!  We'll get you there soon," said another responder, as he helped one of the injured to the triage area.

"In a mass casualty incident, you have to set up a triage where you'll have different classifications for different levels of injuries. And they'll triage based on those injuries for priority for transport to local hospitals," Rushing explained.

"Green, yellow, red. Where do you want to go?" asked a firefighter, as he surveyed the triage area.

"Who do you have over here?" yelled another responder, as they continued to render help to the victims still scattered on the runway.

Amid the chaos, evaluators with clipboards are watching and grading every move. One critical concern is the ability of multiple agencies to work as a team.

"It's the most important thing we could have in this type of scenario. Because when this thing does happen, it takes a multitude of agencies," said CRTC fire chief John Rudy.

Airport operations, Gulfport police and fire, AMR, the combat readiness center and Red Cross are among the responders.

Clear communication is critical.

"Real important. Real important. Especially in a situation like this. If it was real time, it would be total chaos out here. So, communication is extremely important," said Gulfport firefighter Derrick Ladner.

Initial reviews give the responders high marks. The airport evaluator called it "textbook."

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