Rapid City Regional Airport conducts mock aircraft crash simulation drill

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Rapid City Regional Airport conducted it's tri-annual emergency training exercise, Saturday morning. Every three years the Federal Aviation Administration requires that commercial airports perform large scale drills in case of a crash landing. These drills not only prepare emergency service response, but it also gives the airport a higher readiness.

Around 9:45 Saturday morning, a mock commercial airline, with 54 people on board, reported a rapid decent and loss of power. A mock crash followed minutes later, at 9:47 a.m. This triggered an alert three situation response.

"Basically an alert 2 meaning that an aircraft is having difficulty and it could potentially affect the landing of the aircraft,” said Lt. Jim Bussell, the public information officer with the Rapid City Fire Department. “And an alert 3 means the aircraft has actually crashed."

Upon receiving the call, Rapid City Fire Department Station 8, located at the airport, would respond immediately.

"It is incumbent of them to size up the situation, provide any immediate fire attack that needs to take place. And then start facilitating victim rescue, and that may be something like just protecting the exits with fire streams until the next arriving agencies got here," Bussell said.

When rescuing victims, agencies will conduct triage to identify victims with the worst injuries. Rescuers have only one minute with each patient before moving to the next victim.

"We are looking at the highest priority things,” explained Bussell. “Are they having trouble breathing, are they having bleeding issues, and what are their mental states like. And then we base them, red is the most critically injured, yellow is the next level, and then green is what we call the walking wounded. Those red patients are going to be higher priority. They are going to be moved to a transportation area, they are going to be treated on scene quickly, and then they will be transported."

Bussell describes an aircraft crash as a high risk, low frequency event, but one that everyone needs to be prepared for.

"It is an event that we hope never happens, but we need to be ready for it," said Bussell. "Because it is a high risk, low frequency event, it is something that we don't have happen on a regular basis. And because there are many parts from the firefighter aspect, to the rescue effort to the triage treatment and transportation aspect, and the airport administration facet. We need to be able to come together and exercise this on a regular basis to make sure in the event if something like this does ever happen, we are prepared for it."

Every year Rapid City Regional Airport looks at ways to improve responses to different situations.

"We are always reviewing SOP's and seeing how we can improve,” said Matt Whitelck, the airport deputy director at Rapid City Regional Airport. “Anytime we have an incident, we look at it and go how can we improve ours plans on that.”

After review of Saturday’s exercise, Whitelck says Rapid City Regional Airport will be better prepared should emergency happen in the future.

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