In case of emergency

Published 12:06 am Thursday, December 8, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Cartrell Smith, from left, Natori Marshall and Ronyae Haney participate in the disaster drill Wednesday morning at the Natchez-Adams County Airport. The purpose of the drill was to prepare Natchez-Adams County emergency personnel for potential plane crashes at the airport.

NATCHEZ — Local emergency crews responded to a simulated 50-passenger jet plane crash at the Natchez-Adams County Airport Wednesday morning, all in the name of teamwork and practice.

The crews were practicing their response to the crash as part of a community-wide disaster drill that pulled emergency agencies together to test their emergency response plans for disasters.

Adams County Emergency Management Agency, American Medical Response ambulance crews, Adams County Search and Rescue, the AirEvac Lifeteam, the airport’s fire team, the Natchez Fire Department, Natchez Police Department and the American Red Cross were all on the scene of the crash working together.

Crystal White, left, and Bre’Anna Williams participate in the disaster drill.

Representatives from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi Department of Health were also on the scene.

When the drill began, the airport’s fire team used foam and Purple-K, a dry chemical powder, to extinguish the simulated jet fuel fire that was set several yards away from the crash victims.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Leadership Natchez and students from Fallin Career and Technology Center acted as the plane crash victims.

NFD arrived on the scene, and Capt. Bob Cain assumed command of the scene and led the least injured victims or “walking wounded” from the trailer. Cain passed command over to emergency medical services when they arrived on the scene.

The most critically injured were the victims in the school bus, which represented the front of the plane.

The Natchez Air Evac Lifeteam landed on the scene and with the assistance of other emergency workers, removed victims covered in fake blood from the bus, strapped them to stretchers and loaded them into the helicopter, which took off for a short flight and dropped victims off at the terminal.

The helicopter landed three times on the scene to simulate other helicopters in its fleet coming from Rayville, La., and Jackson to assist in taking victims to hospitals.

Ambulance crews triaged victims, placed them on stretchers and loaded them into ambulances to be taken to the hospital.

ACSO deputies controlled traffic at the access points of the airport, and the Natchez Transit Service provided transportation for victims.

Natchez-Adams County Airport Director Clint Pomeroy directs an AirEvac helicopter to the scene of the disaster drill.

NTS is not usually used during actual disasters, but Adams County EMA Director Stan Owens said crews on the scene discussed the fact that NTS could be used as backup transportation for the least wounded victims in the event of a real emergency.

The agencies regrouped at Parkway Baptist Church and the victims were reassessed at the church then taken to Natchez Regional Medical Center.

Amy Campbell, liaison officer for the hospital, was at the scene of the crash assessing victims’ injuries and reporting back to the hospital.

Stan Owens, Adams County EMA director, said he thinks the drill was a success and believes it will aid the agencies in bettering their emergency response plans.

“Now each agency will be able to look within itself and see what needs to be worked on as far as their (emergency) plan,” he said.

Owens said the agencies plan to meet on Dec. 14 to discuss the drill so each agency can implement any changes needed to its emergency plans.

Airport Director Clint Pomeroy said the drill, even though it’s not the real thing, allowed the agencies and the airport to see what each other’s capabilities would be if a crash happened at the airport.

“You never know what you’re going to do because the real thing is different,” he said. “But by doing this you get to work together and plan ahead the best you can.”