Mock Plane Crash Tests Disaster Preparedness

About a half dozen planes have crashed in our area alone in just the past two years.

Thankfully, no more than two people were injured or killed.

But, Thursday, first responders were put to the test by dealing with nearly six dozen victims.

The mock exercise is designed to make sure airport personnel and first responders are ready to respond to a catastrophic event.

They worked through a 757 Boeing plane crash: extinguishing the fire, taking care of victims, and even holding a press conference.

Bluewater Airline Flight 13 crashed and burst into flames around 9:30 Thursday morning.

This was all a mock exercise.

Tallahassee Regional Airport officials, city and county first responders, local hospitals, and various other response/aviation agencies and organizations were on site.

The mock tests the airport's readiness in the event of a disaster such as a plane crash and the overall response and coordination of all the agencies.

Volunteers from the community played the roles of victims and victims' families.

Dolores Santana said, "My part was an easy one. I was dead from the beginning."

Volunteer "Plane Crash Victim" Melissa Gonzalez said, "It's really good because it lets us know that they're staying up and they can think on their feet and stay up to regulations certification."

First responders say the mock sharpens their existing knowledge, and allows them to use their equipment and basic skills in ways that they don't exercise on a daily basis.

In Thursday's scenario, there were 65 passengers and five crew members with a number of fatalities and dozens of injuries.

Leon County Paramedic Ron Motter said, "A car accident might have four or five, but we never normally deal with 40 to 60 patients. This lets us see any weaknesses before this actually happens. This training event really adds to our abilities."

Officials say the mock brought out each agencies strengths and weaknesses.

Some of the lessons learned--officials say they now know they need to designate a public communications person.

EMS tested a new patient tracking system--which got a 60 percent success rate.

Overall, they say things went very well.

The Federal Aviation Administration mandates Tallahassee Regional Airport to conduct emergency disaster exercises every three years.

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