Volunteer Terrorists at the Airport
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
It was part of an emergency exercise that the FAA requires from every commericial airport. While practice doesn't make perfect, it can make a difference if the real thing were to ever happen here. Though real terrorists at the Gainesville Airport may seem a little far- fetched, the mass casualty exercise develops the communication that could be vital in all sorts of emergencies.
A victim screams in pain after terrorists blow up Flight 3400. The aircraft demanded by the terrorists arrived just a few minutes earlier. Some hostages were taken at gunpoint to the new plane as the commercial jet explodes.
While the emergency workers are real, the injuries are fake. The victims are a group of EMT students from Santa Fe Community College.
"I'm a diabetic with a compound fracture and second degree burns on my leg," says SFCC Student Matt Ciancia. "It hurts."
Triage is using tags color-code the victim injuries. Green for minor, yellow for severe and red for critical. There were plenty of critical training for law enforcement and swat teams as well--something that can't be duplicated as an armchair quarterback exercise in the classroom.
"There's really no way to pretend except for having real people, real officers, real deputies, real fire/rescue folks and real injured people," says Gainesville Police Capt. Ed Van Winkle.
Airport officials are mandated to do table-top exercises every year and every third year they do the real thing, no matter the size of the airport.
"It's critical to be prepared, that's what this is about," says Gainesville Regional Airport spokesman Michelle Danisovsky. "It's about testing all the agencies involved and evaluating it and looking at what might need to be improved."
Though it's extra- valuable for the professionals, it's extra credit for the students. But since they are EMT's in training, they can make their pretend injuries extra- realistic.
"You got to know how to act especially in gainesville with the stadium," says Ciancia. "We got to be ready for this kind of stuff because if it's going to happen somewhere in the state, it's going to happen here."
The official evaluation is set for November 1st. For security reasons, airport officials would not give any information about how things went or how they may improve things in the future.
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