Real flames at Bishop Airport but there is no emergency

Published: May. 16, 2019 at 5:43 PM EDT
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(5/16/19) - Air disasters have been in the news lately.

What if one were to occur in mid-Michigan?

Thursday morning, one airport is preparing for just such an emergency, gathering very valuable information to help passengers and the airport in case of an actual emergency.

Bishop Airport conducted a live disaster drill, one that is performed every three years on the tarmac of their civic airfield.

"We never know when an emergency may happen. But, safety and preparation is key," said Autumn Perry-MacClaren, Bishop AIrport Assistant Director of Marketing & Public Relations.

Emergency crews and other first responders across Genesee County participated in this mock disaster.

Thursday morning, an aircraft was reported to have crashed into a ditch upon take off carrying 60 passengers and 4 crew members, just one of the 15-20 flights that fly in and out of Bishop International Airport daily.

First, fire crews had to put out multiple fires surrounding the aircraft from a jet fuel spill.

Although the spill was fake, the flames were very real.

Once the fire was extinguished, emergency crews performed a rescue operation to bring out and treat passengers or crew members who may have sustained injuries.

"Nothing is go as planned. And that's the way it's designed and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to make sure we are 120% prepared if a disaster does happen," added Perry-MacClaren.

Students from the Genesee Career Institute acted as victims, some with cuts and bruises, others with more serious injuries that needed immediate treatment.

"The biggest challenge is it's something that doesn't happen all. So, you're not really familiar with it. We do mock disasters like this to prepare for it and try to keep our people up on what might happen," commented Kirk Wilkinson, Burton Assistant Fire Chief.

Communication between agencies is also an important part to these drills, not only to coordinate rescue efforts, but also improve the flow and speed of response.

In order to make this disaster drill more realistic, the "seriously injured" actors were transported by ambulance to Hurley Medical Center.

While mass tragedies happen very rarely, hospitals need to be ready.

It's one phone call, doctors and their staff don't want to hear.

20 plane crash victims being rushed to the hospital.

"When we have an influx of patients beyond what we normally take care of in numbers or severity or types of injuries, it's always good to have gone through that drill on several occasions," said Dr. Leo Mercer / Hurley Chief of Trauma.

Even though it's only a test and nobody is really hurt, this kind of drill tests a hospital's preparedness in more ways than one.

"Can we get 2,3,4 more surgeons here if needed. What do we do for clinical staff. What do we do for transport. In this instance we're going to be able to test our decontamination process. They're going to have airplane fuel on them," commented John Stewart, Hurley Service Line Administrator.

Once the drill is completed, staff talk about how they did.....and what they can do better in a real emergency.

"It's a good time for us to use this as a dress rehearsal to identify where we're at, if there's gaps, create an action plan to fill those gaps," added Stewart.

It's hoped there is never a need for such a massive mobilization of emergency responders.

But, in the case of a disaster, everyone will be ready to jump into action.

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