Practice makes perfect: Rhinelander airport conducts mock aircraft disaster
Story and photos by Lori C. Adler, reporter
Rhinelander/Oneida County airport personnel, along with crews from the Rhinelander Fire Department and Oneida County Emergency Management, conducted a mock aircraft disaster exercise Thursday. As Matthew Leitner, Rhinelander Airport Director, explained, all commercial airports are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a full-scale mock disaster every three years.
Thursday’s mock disaster scenario was an aircraft experiencing an engine explosion just after the plane, full of passengers, leaves the gate. The exercise, as described by Ken Kortenhof, Oneida County Emergency Management Director, simulates everything from the initial dispatch to the removal, triage, and transport of the mannequin victims. The goal of the event, Kortenhof explains, is to get “as close as we can to real life.”
Helping to create the scenario, Wade Boyat, whose company (Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting) works with training exercises across the Midwest, supplied the mock fuselage and other equipment for Thursday’s event. “Firefighting is technique,” Boyat states. Explaining how his company tries to mimic what a firefighter would see during an actual disaster, he adds that the fuselage “looks, smells and reacts like an aircraft.”
The mock disaster took more than an hour to complete, with everyone involved having a chance to practice their skills. It’s also a chance for everyone to ensure equipment is working properly. Following the disaster exercise, training continued with an overview of how the exercise went and comments by officials and observers. The comments, along with the realistic experience, will allow firefighter and emergency management teams to hone skills, update procedures, and be better prepared should an actual emergency occur.