Mock plane crash tests County emergency services

Mock plane crash tests County emergency services
Fire fighters prepare to transport victims with the most serious pretend injuries as ambulances arrive on the scene of the exercise. Photos by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — Fire fighters and other emergency personnel raced around volunteer victims, aircraft debris, and a smoking bus to respond to a simulated mass-casualty drill at McClellan-Palomar Airport the morning of Oct. 3.

“This is a golden opportunity to practice a county-wide mass casualty emergency,” said Carlsbad Fire Division Chief Mike Davis at the set up just outside of the Premier Jet hangar. He explained that with the recent plane crash in Santa Monica, which killed four people, drills like this are especially important.

The drill was executed to meet Federal Aviation requirements to demonstrate the County’s capability of handling major airport emergencies. Such drills are conducted every three years at McClellan-Palomar Airport, according to County communications specialist Gig Conaughton.

The simulated exercise was designed to imitate a small, 30-passenger plane crashing on the runway while landing.

Dozens of emergency personnel, fire trucks, and ambulances participated in the drill. Involved agencies included the County of San Diego, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, and Rancho Santa Fe Fire Departments.

Thirty volunteers were made-up to act as injured victims during the drill. Scattered about the scene, some screamed, “Help me!” and others, “I’m dying!” to enhance the intensity of the drill

“Drills like this always fall short of the real thing,” said Carlsbad Fire Chief Kevin Crawford as he supervised the test. “The screaming makes it more lifelike.”

Davis said that for the drill and actual emergencies, fire fighters are trained to first put out all fires, then extract victims from the wreckage, sort the victims based on injury severity, and transport them to local hospitals.

At the exercise, responders worked methodically to organize the volunteer victims into minor, delayed, immediate, and morgue areas and transport them when the ambulances arrived.

Crawford emphasized that the drill tests emergency personnel’s ability to coordinate with local hospitals.

As the drill came to a close, Crawford said he was pleased with how the emergency responders executed their training.

“I’m happy with what I see,” he said.

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