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Simulated disaster at airport provides first responders valuable training opportunity

By Peggy Mackenzie

(Photo by Peggy Mackenzie)
Students from Davis Stuart and Greenbrier East and West high schools simulated wounded and dying accident victims on the Greenbrier Valley Airport (GVA) tarmac during Thursday’s multi-department training drill.

Surrounded by emergency vehicles, fire trucks and the Greenbrier County Homeland Security mobile emergency operations center, students from Davis Stuart and Greenbrier East and West high schools simulated accident victims on the Greenbrier Valley Airport (GVA) tarmac during Thursday’s multi-department training drill.

Included in the exercise were every municipal police department in the county, all fire departments and ambulance units, as well as fire service providers from Monroe County, the Civil Air Patrol, military reserve units, the Homeland Security and 911 Center, State Police, the Sheriff’s Office, and the airport fire service crew.

“These larger disaster drills help coordinate the various department’s skills,” said GVA Director of Public Safety James Hylton, who, along with Homeland Security and 911 Executive Director Al Whitaker, were overseeing the operation and recording the action for further review and corrections. Sheriff Bruce Sloan stated, “It’s good to be able to train together with other emergency units. We can work out the kinks.” The takeaway, he said, was that in an actual situation, “we will know how to perform.”

The student volunteers participated by lying on the hot tarmac in jumbled disarray, either moaning in mock pain or being perfectly still. They were marked with colored ribbons to indicate the extent of their “injuries:” green, yellow, red and black to indicate a level of trauma – the worst being black. Helicopters appeared and landed and a few of the “moderate to severely wounded” were evacuated to Greenbrier Medical Center, where they were taken to the emergency center. Airport Manager Stephen Snyder said operations such as these training exercises involve every stage of a potential disaster event, including flying to Charleston, Roanoke or even North Carolina to an appropriate medical facility, depending on the severity of the “injury.”

Snyder said these drills, a requirement of FAA guidelines, are normally run every three years. More than 12 agencies and 250 people were involved in the exercise. “We learn something every time we do this,” he said. Communication is the biggest challenge, he added. “Everyone has a part to play.”

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