By Nick Hill
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – First responders held an emergency response drill on Lovell Field at the Chattanooga Airport today.
The chief of Chattanooga Airport’s Fire Depart Greg Banks said, “We write plans, we have them in place for the just in case because you have low frequency, high risk events such as this that’s hard to create a true response plan.”
Multiple agencies, such as the Chattanooga Fire and Police Departments, Hamilton County Sheriff and EMS, and FBI were on hand to participate in today’s exercise to simulate what a response would be to a plane crash at the Chattanooga Airport.
The scenario was designed to be as realistic as possible for the kinds of commercial aircraft that use Lovell Field.
Banks said, “The description on the scenario was that aircraft was inbound to our runway, landed short.”
In that scenario, the plane breaks apart into two sections.
These sections of the plane were represented by two older CARTA buses.
Banks said, “We’d actually given a script to the control tower. The control tower called just like it would be a real incident, and then it unfolded as it would in a real incident.”
In the plane, volunteers portrayed 58 mock crash victims first responders had to attend to.
Some of the volunteers were local high school students in vocational studies at Brainerd High School and from Rainsville, Alabama.
Chattanooga State also had an EMT program come out to participate as well.
Banks said, “What we do is depending on the index for our airport, what we normally have coming into our airport for commercial aircraft, the FAA mandates that we have at least a set amount of people (for these exercises) which is supposed to be 40 to 50.”
The Chattanooga Airport’s Fire Department relies on the relationship with its partner agencies in a worst case disaster.
Jack McAfee, the Vice President of Operations at the Chattanooga Airport said, “Our relationship with the Chattanooga Fire Department is essential. We’re a small department. We have two trucks, 12 staff. But, aircraft accidents quickly escalate beyond what we can handle. So having them respond and all of the other agencies is absolutely paramount to having us operate as an airport.”
The lessons that an exercise like this provides is crucial.
Banks said, “We will take the things that we done good, and the things that need improvement, and then work on it from there to make an actual incident that much better when it happens.”
There were no disruptions in normal operations at the Airport this morning.