First responders sharpen their skills during emergency drill at Meridian Regional Airport

Bill Graham / The Meridian Star

First responders survey the scene of a simulated emergency on the runway of Meridian Regional Airport on Wednesday. The drill tested the response capabilities of various agencies, with local Boy Scouts acting as victims. 

Local emergency responders gathered at Meridian Regional Airport Wednesday morning for a full-scale exercise to ensure they work well together in the event of a disaster. 

As part of the exercise, a passenger plane en route from Dallas to Birmingham comes in for an emergency landing, but crashes on the runway. 

“Then we put our airport emergency plan into progress,” said Paul Smith, director of operations for Meridian Airport Authority. “We’ll initiate the response, central dispatch will notify our assisting partners and everyone will respond and work as a team.”

Instead of wreckage, orange plastic barriers are set up in the shape of a plane. 

Within the barriers are members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 70, who play the ten passengers on the plane.  

The Scouts wear name tags describing their various injuries – “concussion,” “broken leg,” “unconscious.”

Fire trucks dart up the runway and crews begin spraying water.

They start to assess the injured passengers, moaning in pain. 

First responders sharpen their skills during emergency drill at Meridian Regional Airport

Bill Graham / The Meridian Star

First responders help a victim while a helicopter waits during the drill. 

First responders sharpen their skills during emergency drill at Meridian Regional Airport

Bill Graham / The Meridian Star

First responders assist Boy Scout Sterling Carney during the drill.

“We’ve got a burn victim over here,” a man shouts.

He points out the deceased, including two marked “crew” near the nose of the plane. 

Responders tend to a victim with a concussion and cradle his head as they move him to an orange backboard. 

“We’re going to roll him that way," says a firefighter to two others. "One, two, three.”

A helicopter lands on the runway and two men in neon vests hurry off, rolling a gurney to another victim. 

One by one, crews carry away the victims. 

On Thursday, the participants will review how the drill went. 

The exercise is required by the Federal Aviation Administration every 36 months, according to Smith. 

“The airport’s a different environment,” he said. “We have runways and taxiways. We don’t have highways, so moving around the airport is a lot different than moving around on a regular highway, so having all of these agencies work together ensuring our communications between each department flows properly, that’s what we get out of these exercises.”

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