On Saturday, 200 personnel from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTA), BWI special operations support unit, American Red Cross volunteers and several fire departments, including Baltimore County, Howard County and Anne Arundel County, gathered to participate in a training exercise for the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Fire and Rescue Department.
At 6.m. sharp, an estimated 100 surviving “victims,” along with 30 mannequins that represented the “deceased” arrived at the airport in the back of a truck. This was the beginning of a drill for disasters that is a requirement of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The drill was led by the airport fire department, while the other agencies provided assistance when needed, allowing first responders and different agencies to work together to prepare for a large-scale disaster with mass casualties.
At the end of the day, the group would be rated on how well they triaged and transported patients to their respected areas. The BWI firefighters would also be rated on how well they worked with their “mutual-aid” partners.
This year’s simulation was based around a DC-10 and fuel truck collision that occurred during a landing on the runway.
The Maryland fire marshal’s bomb squad set out about four pounds of C-4 explosives, which produced a massive boom that would be similar to a real-life collision. An old aircraft utilized for the training exercise caught on fire, while the volunteers shouted for help and sirens blared.
The drill area, an old gravel parking lot, became filled with fire equipment and firefighters in protective gear, whom began to inspect the aircraft. Other firefighters began to extinguish the flames that were near the plane.
It didn’t take long for the BWI special operations support unit to pull up in a long white trailer. Personnel started rolling out several tarps of different colors, which would be utilized to triage the patients. The most severely injured victims would be placed on the red tarp, while the yellow tarp would be utilized for the less serious and green for “walking wounded.”
A metal stairwell was wheeled to the plane, where several firefighters scaled the steps with tools to attempt to get inside. In the meantime, units from other agencies began to arrive on scene, including the MDTA, who would be responsible for patrolling the airport and more firefighters.
Roughly a dozen firefighters in a red school bus arrived and began carrying the victims on canvas stretchers. A few victims were loaded into nearby ambulances. While the drill was being carried out, airplanes continued to take off and land as usual.
According to the emergency management coordination at Maryland Aviation Administration, Theodore Valmas, it takes about a year to plan the exercise.