RALEIGH, N.C. — Emergency crews Saturday were faced with the scenario of fire in the cargo hold of a plane with 80 people on board.
However, this was part of a full-scale disaster drill at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Airport officials said the drill is the first step in making sure they're ready for a real emergency.
More than 200 police, fire and emergency workers, as well as volunteers, participated in the exercise that mimicked the aftermath of a disaster. Dozens of mock victims were hurt, many seriously.
While it’s just a drill, it's also a learning experience for more than 25 different agencies from around the Triangle. The FAA requires every airport, including RDU, to perform such a drill every three years. Airport leaders said it allows them to evaluate how well they work with outside agencies.
“Our plan continually changes, so what we did three years ago and what we had in place then may be totally different from what we have in place today,” said deputy airport director of operations Mike McElvaney.
Airport employees also tested out a new radio system to make sure it works well when trying to communicate with everyone else.
“We're really trying to get this as realistic as possible, to get as many of the agencies involved so they're familiar with what goes on out here,” said McElvaney.
“Actually seeing a patient that is triaged and otherwise made up to look like they would after an incident such as this allows us to practice what might actually happen as opposed to what might theoretically happen,” said EMS medical director Brent Myers.
The disaster drill was as real as they can make it, even for the volunteer victims.
“I've worked for the airlines for several years and I feel like if I'm going to be prepared, it's the most realistic way to be prepared,” said Jet Blue employee Linda Chaimberland.
Airport officials said after the drill, they'll follow up with a written report to see what worked well and what they need to do change in the future.