Lubbock airport prepares for the worst with disaster drill - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Lubbock airport prepares for the worst with disaster drill


First responders rushed to a disaster at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. While it looked real, the scene was actually a simulation, set up for training.

That's because plane hijackings and terrorist threats in the 1970's caused airports around the country to plan for emergencies. At least once every three years the Federal Aviation Administration regulations require airports to conduct an exercise simulating a plane crash, thought to be hit by terrorists.  

The exercise looked like a dooms day scenario with mass casualties. The goal is to work out the kinks if there was a plane crash, something the airport is familiar with.

"I've had the unfortunate experience having to respond to at least two disasters of pretty high magnitude in my career," said James Loomis, Director of Aviation at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport.

Two years ago a FedEx plane, carrying cargo and two pilots, crashed on the runway at the Lubbock Airport. Fortunately, there were no injuries. However, it was because of an emergency plan that helped first responders know what to do.

Loomis said, "Initially, it's total chaos, but after there seems to be a calmness that sets in over the scene and the agencies that respond cause that calmness to happen."

In response to a simulated terrorist attack, nursing students from South Plains College volunteered and were given instructions on what wounds they would have and how to act. Local, state and federal agencies responded to the emergency and assisted the survivors.

"This is an exercise of communication more than anything else and cooperation," said Loomis.

The fire station located at the airport was the first to arrive on scene to put the fire out and help the victims before EMS arrived. When EMS got to the scene they used triage tags to sort the victims by color code.

One example of a simulated victim was a woman who lost her baby during the crash. Officials searched the wide spread area only to find the small child deceased.

Another victim became uncooperative. Lubbock Police were called out to calm  the man down.

The scenario is devastating to see, but it's practice in case a plane crash happens.

"Its good thing for the city to have a plan in place and know how to execute it when it happens," said Rochelle Neeley, South Plains College nursing student.

Officials say the exercise went well Thursday. The nursing students say it was a great experience for them too, learning how victims would be treated before they go to the hospital.

Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.

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