Flames and blood are not a common sight at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, but that was the case Wednesday, all because of a training exercise. This federally mandated drill takes place every three years to test the airport's response to emergencies. It was a mix of cries of agony and smiling faces as volunteers from local schools played the parts of crash victims at the airport where a training exercise had first responders rushing to rescue wounded.
Richard Rushing, the Operations Supervisor, says, "Where it gets complicated is that it is a mass casualty incident we've got 80 plus victims out here. It’s just controlling that and doing triage and moving people out from there.” Firefighters were first on the scene, forced to battle flames that engulfed a dummy plane, testing the airport's rescue plan. Rushing also says, "The plan is pretty well developed over many years. It lays out basic steps and from there, everyone knows what their role is as far as responding to emergencies, fires.” Fire crews first responded to the burning airplane, dousing those flames. Then, they shifted their attention to the “victims” on the tarmac, helping them as best they could.
Russel Sholtz, Incident Commander, says, "We do these exercises pretty often to demonstrate to the public what we do, but we train and interact with our partners on a daily basis.” It is rescue workers like this, working hand in hand, that help them carry out rescue operations like this on and off the tarmac. Sholtz also says, "We train all the time with our public safety partners. We all train inoperably with radios and different training objectives on a daily basis, and so when you do that, you react with your training.”
While this was only a drill, these heroes would do just the same in a real life scenario. It's in their blood. Airport officials say that the exercise went smoothly and the action plan in place was extremely effective.