Duluth International Airport Conducts Large-Scale Disaster Exercise

DULUTH, Minn. – How would emergency responders react if an airplane struck a piece of construction equipment at Duluth International Airport, injuring dozens of people?

That what an exercise held Thursday found out.

The Duluth International Airport has never experienced a large-scale disaster like the one they simulated Thursday, but it’s necessary to simulate one to meet an FAA requirement.

The scenario had multiple stages for responders to react to, from helping to treat people who were acting injured, as well as putting out a live fire set to represent a crashed airplane.

“So there’s a number of different things that we’re able to accomplish in a full-scale exercise like this,” says Tom Werner, Executive Director of the Duluth Airport Authority, “but it is a requirement.  We do it every three years.”

The exercise took months to plan, and brings together airport staff, airline and federal agency representatives, as well as medical, emergency management, and law enforcement members from Duluth and surrounding communities.

Werner says it’s likely a disaster won’t play out like this exercise did, but going through it helps them if one does occur.  “It’s about making sure that we can think on our feet.  We can talk to each other across agency lines, and be effective responders, not only to the incident, but saving lives as well.”

Exercises like this would not be possible without several dozen volunteers playing the part of the victims.

“I’m a student at Lake Superior College for the Fire Technology program,” says Cade Berg, a volunteer for the exercise.  “So I have experience doing very minor versions of this drill for EMT classes.”

Berg says the college’s Fire Tech Club wanted to help out those who they hope to work with in the future, as well as experience what people go through when they suffer a serious injury.  “You know, I got handed off to 12 different people.  I had no idea what was going on.  It’s just sort of helps you get into the mindset of the victims, knowing that they are confused, having a rough time.  Learning to be a bit more empathetic.”

In the years when a full-scale exercise isn’t held, scenarios still take place but are acted out like a computer simulation or tabletop game.  Organizations that would take part would gather together communicate between their offices to ensure everyone is ready in case something unthinkable would happen.

Categories: News – Latest News, Public Safety, Video