Emergency response teams hold full-scale drill at Peoria airport
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SEAN WORK/JOURNAL STAR
Staff Sgt. William Bontz and Airman 1st Class Collin Mason of the Illinois Air National Guard lead a group of mock victims to a triage area during a disaster preparedness drill at Peoria International Airport on Saturday. The exercise simulated a commercial airline crash and emergency response, involving a number of local agencies.
By JACKSON ADAMS (jadams
of the Journal Star
Splayed around the airplane were the wounded. Some were lying on the ground, others propped up and a few running and yelling before the real action happened.
They had just been in a crash. The sound of the plane still running was nearly deafening, but the plentiful blood and occasional pieces of fake wooden shrapnel in the face weren’t going to stop the victims from playing their roles.
Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport conducted a full-scale disaster drill Saturday morning.
About 70 children and youths, wearing makeup and prosthetics, served as victims of a crash for local organizations to practice their emergency preparedness plans on.
These drills are required every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration. The drill takes about four months to plan and more than 150 service people to see to completion.
While Illinois Air National Guard fire safety trucks were the first on the scene, many other organizations were on hand to practice what they would do in case of an emergency, from removing injured from the area, to transporting them by bus to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, to holding a news conference about the event.
About a half hour after the faux tragedy had begun, it was finished, with volunteers heading to be examined at the hospital and the rest of the organizations packing up. Many people who were involved said they appreciated the way a variety of organizations come together to respond to a tragedy, even a fake one.
“There’s a lot of community partnership and coming together, and there’s no other way to do this,” said Troy Erbentraut, manager of disaster preparedness for St. Francis. “We can all get in the sandbox and play together. If something like this were to actually happen, we wouldn’t handle it the same, it’d be much more stressful, but we can get the basics down. The more we practice, the better we can respond.”
With so many professionals involved, the drill was completed seamlessly and met the goal of Larry Gilmore. He’s the chief of fire and emergency services for the Air National Guard and the airport.
“My ultimate goal is to account for those 70 people and assign their injuries the appropriate value in one hour,” Gilmore said. “That’s my ultimate goal.” Gilmore says seeing the drill conducted instead of simply having a plan in place is extremely valuable not just to the airport, but to the entire community.
“A plan is a piece of paper,” Gilmore said. “It doesn’t mean anything until you get out there. It’s a community aspect, not just for the airport or the National Guard. We have to be able to do the most that we can.”
Jackson Adams can be reached at 686-3196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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