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Airport conducts mock crash exercise

By LUKE CREASYMay 19, 2019

CEREDO - Emergency response crews from six different locations worked in conjunction with the Huntington Tri-State Airport Fire Department in a full-fledged mock airplane crash emergency exercise Saturday morning.

Fire and EMS crews from Ceredo, Kenova, Lavalette, Prichard, Ashland, Kentucky and Marathon each responded as they would in the event of an actual crash at or near the airport.

“This makes us better,” airport Director Brent Brown said. “It’s good to do these as often as possible so that we can identify where our weak links are and work on those so that if the real thing actually happens, everything comes together smoothly and efficiently.”

Brown added that a live drill, like what occurred Saturday morning, is conducted every three years to keep the skills fresh and also accommodating to personnel turnover, which could occur with responding agencies. Yearly table-top drills are also held, Brown said, as means to continually improve response efforts.

Tri-State Airport Fire Chief Brad Kitts echoed Brown’s words, but added that it’s also important that the community knows they are trained and prepared to work alongside local agencies should tragedy strike.

“For us, it’s highly important for us and the community to have our responders trained and ready for something like this at the airport. We are a small agency up here, so we rely heavily on mutual aid. If it wasn’t for them, we would never be able to handle something like this,” Kitts said.

The exercise was designed to replicate events that were likely to happen in the event of an aircraft crash. It involved more than 40 individuals who acted as “souls on board” and were either pronounced DOA (dead on arrival) or treated for injuries and taken by ambulance away from the scene. Law enforcement even had a staged security breach in which an individual acted as the mother of a victim and attempted to run past the security line. One victim was air-lifted by HealthNet.

Crews were stationed near the site of the mock crash and radio calls went out over local scanners as they would in real time. Messages pertaining to the exercise were ended with the phrase, “This is a drill,” so the calls would not be confused with other scanner activity.

Within 10 minutes of the initial radio call, the first emergency response vehicles were on scene. After 35 minutes, the first “patients” were being transported by ambulance off site.

“It’s good to get everybody exposed to an event like this in case a situation like this would ever occur,” Kitts said. “It’s good training for everybody. I think it went pretty well. It’s my first time supervising something like this, but from my standpoint, everything went well and met my expectations.

“There’s things we’ll go back and talk about how we could have done better, and we’ll get those things hashed out and be as prepared as we could possibly be in the event of an actual emergency.”

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