RV Airport conducts mass casualty drill

Simulating a plane crash next to a bus with wings attached, workers apply smoke to represent flames.

Simulating a plane crash next to a bus with wings attached, workers apply smoke to represent flames.

On June 13 at 10:30 a.m., RV Medford Airport staged a live simulated test portraying the aftermath of a “crash” on a Bullock Road field. The mock drill took months in planning. Twenty-three agencies including Airlines, Hospitals, Fire Districts 3 and 5, City, County, State and Federal Law Enforcement among others participated.

Required every three years by the FAA, successful completion of the extensive exercise qualifies the airport to retain its Federal Regulation 139 Certificate for commercial service. “In the interim years,” said Public Information Director, Kim Stearns, “table-top scenarios are conducted. Participating agencies also use this training to qualify for their state and local requirements.”

The premise surrounded the “crash landing” of an aircraft, (actually a bus to which airport workers had attached metal wings.) For added realism, Stearns announced to media members present, “An Exercise Aire CRJ 700 bound from Seattle to Medford with 55 souls aboard, crashed near Medford Airport at 10:35 a.m. Cause unknown at this time.” She urged broadcasters to request that the public stay away from the airport, allowing rescue vehicles to get through quickly.

According to Airport Director, Bern Case, volunteers were recruited from sources, such as HS drama classes, church groups, and the V.A. SORCC. Among the roles they portrayed–people meeting flights; others critically injured, (painted with fake blood ;) walking wounded; or “expired” victims.

Stearns deemed volunteers essential to the triage element of the exercise, which aimed to strengthen and smooth communication among responders.

Before 10:30 Thursday morning, intrigued by the strange looking winged bus in the distance, curious onlookers had stopped their cars near the sprawling field. Shortly afterward, a 60-passenger vehicle carrying the “casualties” arrived. Men clad in bright-colored vests emerged, and set a smoke emitting bomb to simulate flames close to the “air-bus.” Just after 10:35, the airport’s own fire department responded first, snuffing out the smoke by spraying it with water from a thick fire hose.

Shortly following–Mercy Flights, Stearns, and J.C.F.D. 3’s bright yellow engines. Public Information Officer, Don Hickman observed, and assessed his agency’s performance.

“Individual participating agencies are evaluated by people in their field,” Stearns explained. “Responders arrive on scene at different times, as would happen in real life.”

At that point, some “victims” ran about, screaming for help, while others remained motionless on the ground. Soon a gurney arrived, to take the blood-stained “most severely injured” to a treatment area. There, medical personnel would determine the severity of any injuries. The waiting ambulance would transport the most critical to one of three local hospitals involved in this drill.

“In a real case scenario this exercise would go on for weeks,” Stearns said. “But today, it’ll last just a couple of hours.” The final results of June 13’s drill will be provided after the performances have been graded.


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