Good training helps first responders prepare

Firefighters work to put out blazing jet fuel in several areas at once, as well as perform rescue and other operations on the Mobile Aircraft Fire Trainer plane. Photos by Paula K. Schmidt

Firefighters work to put out blazing jet fuel in several areas at once, as well as perform rescue and other operations on the Mobile Aircraft Fire Trainer plane. Photos by Paula K. Schmidt

FLINT — As they say in the Army, when you respond to real world situations, in real time, “That’s good training”. Teams of first responders did it a little different last week at Bishop Airport, in hopes they would have good training if a real-world plane crash ever occurs at the facility. Civilian personnel and the first responders all acted in concert as the airport conducted its regularly scheduled disaster drill to help people train in the skills they might need should an accident occur at the site.

On the tarmac at the civilian aviation hangar off Torrey Road, a fake disaster scene was set up with a simulated plane and jet fuel fire, which firefighters from across the county worked as a team to extinguish.

Flint Fire Department fought the fire, and Flint Township Fire Department was in charge of water supply. Mundy Township was in charge of Hazardous Materials (Haz Mat) operations, and Burton managed site rehabilitation and decontamination. Fenton Township firefighters assisted as well.

Coordinating with the airport were the American Red Cross and local hospitals, both of which have personnel stand by to be notified when ‘victims’ are transported for health care or mental health care. They also participate in the drill for their own training purposes.

Genesee Career Institute students provided their services as pretend victims for the exercise.

Red Cross Government Liaison, Dick Beauchamp said mental health and health services representatives from his organization, go to meet victims at the hospital and assess them for what services can be provided to assist them in recovery.

In addition they would have mental health experts in the terminal to assist victim’s families.

Burton Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Wilkinson said the training is essential in learning skills they wouldn’t normally use but also in training them to respond to the unexpected.

Multiple emergency medical service units participated and worked on coordinating transport of triaged patients from the scene. Triage is a method of determining who has the most critical injuries and who should be treated first. Non-emergency patients would be transported by bus to be checked at local medical centers.

Airport board and administration officials were on site to observe the exercise and Autumn Perry-MacClaren, Bishop Airport Assistant Director of Marketing & Public Relations, led the media throughout and provided updates to them as she would in a real emergency.

Perry-MacClaren advised the media that the exercise, conducted every three years, is essential in order to ensure the safety of passengers flying in and out of the airport. To begin the exercise, a false alarm was placed by the airport tower to the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Station and 911 signaling an aircraft emergency had occurred—in this case the simulated crash of an outbound flight with approximately 60 people on board.

The alarm then mobilizes the Airport Rescue and Firefighting Unit, in addition to the following agencies: the American Red Cross; local Fire Departments; area Police Departments; County Paramedics; area Ambulances and Hospitals; Emergency Response Organizations and Agencies; Genesee County Emergency Management; MTA; the Civil Air Patrol and airline and airport employees.

Airport Director, Craig Williams stated, “Exercising our emergency plan is a key component to being fully prepared for any potential emergency. This could not be done without our mutual aid partners and we would like to thank them for their participation and support.”

A Mobile Aircraft Fire Trainer (simulating a real plane) was on-scene, and set ablaze to simulate an actual incident as well as jet fuel spill and fire.