COVID-19 downsized airport disaster drill

Hank Hayes • Jun 11, 2020 at 2:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — COVID-19 changed how the Tri-Cities Airport conducted its mock disaster drill on Wednesday.

The exercise was done on a smaller scale with a limited number of volunteer victims, while first responders were directed not to touch them.

Purpose of the drill

This is a federally-mandated exercise designed to promote emergency preparedness, test the airport’s emergency operation plan, train personnel in emergency management duties and coordinate the efforts of local emergency service agencies responding to an aircraft accident or incident.

The disaster scenario

At approximately 9 a.m., a 76-passenger regional jet en route to Tri-Cities Airport crashes upon landing when the left main landing gear fails and the aircraft slides off the runway. The aircraft then rolled, breaking into two separate pieces with one section catching on fire. The Air Traffic Control Tower calls an Alert 3. The on-duty airport public safety officers respond and call for mutual aid support. Sixty people were on board, 56 passengers and four crew. Several people are ejected from the aircraft and injuries range from minor cuts and scrapes to serious trauma with some fatalities. An old school bus was used to simulate the airplane's fuselage.

The drill's participants

There were emergency management agencies from Sullivan and Washington counties, Sullivan County Health Department, fire departments, Tri-Cities emergency medical services and airport first responders.

Airport Executive Director Gene Cossey's remarks

"The idea of a mutal aid response is that everyone in the Tri-Cities area will respond. Our emergency plan has a program to make sure all of our information is accurate and up to date. Each response would actually be a little different depending upon the nature of what an actual emergency would be. That's why we do these drills is to give everybody a chance to adapt on the go as we encounter each emergency. The biggest (jet) we have that comes in on a normal basis is 75 passengers."

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