Mock Plane Crash Tests Emergency Readiness - - The News for South Mississippi

Mock Plane Crash Tests Emergency Readiness

The pilot of an incoming 737 loses control of the airplane on final approach to Gulfport-Biloxi International airport .

No, it didn't actually happen.  But that was the scenario that tested the readiness of emergency services Friday morning.

Emergency workers have a set plan for responding to a catastrophe. But such drills seldom go according to plan.

The goal of such a drill is to provide a real time, real life response. That's why such exercises don't follow a rigid plan. Emergency workers know to expect the unexpected. The drill tried to better prepare them for that.

First responders found victims scattered along the concrete amid smoking wreckage. Rescue workers climbed aboard the plane in search of survivors.

"We're going to start setting up a triage if you're able to move," shouted one paramedic as he assessed a victim's injuries.

Additional emergency crews arrive within minutes. They find a field of wounded awaiting attention.

"If you can move, I need you to go straight over to that area and get assessed OK? They'll find your sister," said a firefighter to one of the walking wounded.

"We've got a lot of people that fly in to Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport and what we're trying to do is protect everybody. We want to be ready if something does happen, be it a major incident or be it a minor incident. We want to be ready for this," Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said.

"Let's go. There's your transport officer right there," said one of the American Medical Response supervisors as he directed a crew.

Paramedics and rescue workers continued to triage the victims. Evaluators took notes during the drill and occasionally added something extra to make it more interesting.

"Throwing different things in the mix and changing things in the middle. So that nobody can really anticipate what's going to happen next," Airport Director Bruce Fralic said.

A wounded man screamed for his missing sister. The delerious victim was among the added elements at the drill.

The evaluation which follows the exercise may be as important as the drill itself. It will help emergency services determine what went wrong and how to avoid those problems in a real emergency.

Phil Berg is with American Medical Response.

"We don't want them to go perfect, because if they go perfect then we don't learn anything. And we want to evaluate their performance as well as critique it," said Berg.

Coordination and cooperation among agencies is essential in responding to such an emergency. The drill involved some two dozen different companies or departments.

By Steve Phillips

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