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Wednesday, January 26, 2022
METRO  |  CRIME

Gainesville airport preps for emergency with plane crash exercise

<p>About 60 students from Santa Fe College Emergency Medical Services programs volunteered to act as victims and had mock injuries applied before the event started, Porter said. Once emergency responders arrived, the actors were bandaged and placed in ambulances to simulate being driven to the hospital.</p>

About 60 students from Santa Fe College Emergency Medical Services programs volunteered to act as victims and had mock injuries applied before the event started, Porter said. Once emergency responders arrived, the actors were bandaged and placed in ambulances to simulate being driven to the hospital.

Passengers lay on the ground next to the smoking, severed airplane. The sound of helicopter blades chopping the air, fire truck horns and ambulance sirens drowned out their moans.

But, the injuries were just makeup, and the “dead” were inflatable dolls.

This was all part of a full-scale emergency exercise held at the Gainesville Regional Airport Wednesday morning, as part of the airport’s emergency operations plan, said Erin Porter, the Gainesville Airport manager of marketing and public relations. 

This year, the scenario was a simulated plane crash, Porter said. The goal of these full-scale drills is to make the scenario appear as real as possible.

“This is practicing for something we never want to have happen,” Porter said. “But it is really, really great that we do.”

About 60 students from Santa Fe College Emergency Medical Services programs volunteered to act as victims and had mock injuries applied before the event started, Porter said. Once emergency responders arrived, the actors were bandaged and placed in ambulances to simulate being driven to the hospital.

There were 18 participating federal and local agencies, Porter said. The airport remained open during the drill, and it did not affect any incoming or outgoing flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that all air carrier airport operators hold a full-scale exercise at least once every three years, Porter said. The Gainesville Regional Airport also hosts smaller “tabletop” exercises every year.

There hasn't been a plane crash at the airport since 2006, according to the Gainesville Sun. 

Lauren Lettelier, the North Florida Regional Medical Center director of public relations and communications, oversaw the treatment of the victims. She said body doubles were already waiting at the hospital with matching injuries so students didn’t have to be transported from the airport.

The hospital had to cut the exercise short by an hour because there were too many real patients coming in at the same time, Lettelier said. 

“I think communication was the number one theme, making sure that we're all talking to each other and all of our systems work,” Lettelier said.

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Sgt. Lisa Scott, the Gainesville Police accreditation manager, said that during the drill, officers set a perimeter around the crash site to provide access for medical services and keep civilians out as well as to assist the fire rescue and EMT’s.

“I think any drill or training exercises is always a success,” Scott said. “Because even if it doesn't work out, well, you learn from it.”

About 60 students from Santa Fe College Emergency Medical Services programs volunteered to act as victims and had mock injuries applied before the event started, Porter said. Once emergency responders arrived, the actors were bandaged and placed in ambulances to simulate being driven to the hospital.

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