Spokane International Airport emergency crews had a mass casualty incident on its hands Thursday morning after multiple passengers were injured during an emergency landing. While the incident was just an exercise, the training emergency crews conducted was real.
While emergency crews as well as the 50 volunteers playing injured passengers probably would have hoped for better weather, the fact is the conditions at the airport Thursday only added to how realistic the training was.
"The reality is that many of these incidents occur in periods of bad weather so this is very realistic for us," Spokane International Airport CEO Larry Krauter said.
Krauter worked with his emergency response team, made up of fire and EMS personnel, for a year to plan for this FAA-required training exercise.
"What we are trying to do is exercise our airport emergency plan. It is a requirement that we have a live exercise every three years," he explained.
Usually the airport has to borrow a plane from one of the airlines that fly into Spokane for the exercise; on Thursday they used a Boeing 727 donated by FedEx for the training evolution.
"We have actual seats, we have mannequins here in addition to the volunteers so that the firefighters and the first responders will get for the first time here really hands on experience of getting on an actual aircraft," Krauter said.
One factor in making the exercise as realistic as possible was in keeping the responders in the dark about the full extent of the exercise, so they had no idea of what to expect until they arrived on the scene.
"Its very important for us to be a little bit unpredictable with regard to the number and types of injuries so that as the emergency responders encounter it, it will be as close to encountering what they would encounter in the event of a mass casualties event here," Krauter said.