Airshow disaster drill puts local agencies through the fire

Airshow disaster drill puts local agencies through the fire

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -A midair collision and multiple casualties spread out over several locations is definitely an unpleasant scenario. The hope is that scenario won’t play out during the upcoming Thunder Over the Sound airshow, but if anything should happen, first responders will have a template thanks to Wednesday’s extensive disaster exercise.

More than 130 volunteers from Keesler Air Force Base got into their disaster makeup called moulage. The good news is none of the wounds were real.

Bill Mays is the drill ring-leader, and he made sure everyone was in place and on the same page.

"Most years, we have three to five entities on base,” Mays said. “This is the first time we’ve had 10 entities working with us.”

The scenario features an airshow mid-air collision, numerous casualties and first responders assessing the disaster.

"The scene that we’ve set up here is that we’re really trying to maximize the Biloxi police and fire, Keesler Forces and make sure we’re ready to handle the worst-case scenario,” Mays added.

There were main disaster areas set up, two in Biloxi and one on Keesler. The scenario called for one of the airshow pilots ejecting over the Mississippi Sound with first responders trying to rescue him.

KAFB Senior Airman Ford Schwing played the pilot’s role, complete with a bolt sticking out of his head.

"It's kind of like sports,’ Schwing said. “If you don't practice, it's pretty tough."

The fictitious numbers had five dead, 135 injured and 30 people missing. Mays and others said all this is necessary to build relationships and good communication.

"That’s one of the biggest issues you have with any event, communication,” he said. “Hopefully, nothing is as bad as what we hit them with today.”

The airshow is scheduled to take place May 4-5 in Biloxi. For all of the details, check out the Gulf Coast Weekend website.

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