Casualty Drill Held as Training Exercise
Local emergency responders experienced the training benefits of a plane crash without the tragedy during an exercise Wednesday.
The drill held Wednesday morning at the Santa Maria Public Airport simulated a mass-casualty plane crash involving 40 to 50 passengers with a post-crash fire and a fuel leak.
A school bus represented the downed aircraft, local students with painted-on injuries volunteered as the victims and a smoke machine and propane fire pan added realism to the experience. Dispatchers and emergency responders relayed information about the simulated wreck over the emergency radio system, giving frequent reminders that the event was a drill.
Paramedics rushed to the aid of the passengers, assessing patients and driving them away in ambulances to the Santa Maria fire station located at the airport, which served as a hospital.
The drill was intended to exercise and increase the effectiveness of the Santa Maria Public Airport District’s emergency plan, according to the city of Santa Maria, and was in keeping with the Federal Aviation Administration’s requirement that airports certified for air carrier operations hold a full-scale disaster drill every three years.
Airport operations were not interrupted during the exercise, as the drill was held on a closed taxiway and an infield paved area.
Participating agencies included the Santa Maria Public Airport District, Santa Maria fire and police departments, American Medical Response, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, CALSTAR air ambulance, SkyWest United Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, Marian Medical Center, Bomar Security, county Emergency Medical Services, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Santa Maria Fire Department Battalion chief Alan Widling said the drill was beneficial for the city fire department, which is on contract with the airport to provide fire services. The benefits of the training extended to other agencies, as well, he added.
“It’s great for not only (city firefighters) but our partners out there,” Widling said. The drill is “where we challenge everyone to a semi-stressful environment to see how they perform,” he said. He felt the exercise was a success. “All that interaction went really well.”