Minot airport’s emergency exercise trains responders

Community responders drill at simulated airport emergency

Submitted Photo Minot firefighters help a “victim” from the wreckage of an “airplane” that crashed during an emergency exercise Wednesday.

A simulated airplane crash at Minot International Airport put local emergency personnel through their paces Wednesday.

Emergency responders and airport personnel had a chance to test their emergency plans and practice their responses during the drill at the airport. The exercise brought in participants from the Minot Police Department, Minot Fire Department, City of Minot Public Works Department, Trinity Health, Community Ambulance, Ward County Emergency Management, Minot Rural Fire Department, Ward County Sheriff’s Office, Enbridge, N.D. Highway Patrol, Minot Air Force Base and Allegiant Airlines.

“It really is a community effort, which is what it would be if this were a real event,” said Rick Feltner, Minot airport director.

The emergency exercise also drew on a large number of volunteers to play a variety of roles, from crash victims to media. The city put out a call for volunteers that generated a response from Minot Air Force Base, Scout troops and others.

“I think it’s good because they get to maybe see a different part of emergency response than they normally would,” Feltner said.

Submitted Photo Minot firefighters assist a group of “victims” on a grassy airport hillside following a simulated plane crash during an emergency exercise Wednesday.

The airport exercise is conducted every three years. Three years ago, the scenario was a simulated explosion from checked luggage in the terminal. This year’s scenario involved an aircraft crash that gave agencies a chance to practice the protocols in their emergency plans.

“We have a procedure and plan to implement,” Feltner said. “We pray that we never have to put it in place for real, but it is important that we practice it.”

Airport Operations Manager Deanna Stoddard organized the exercise with the help of various agencies over the past several months. The script was written to present the types of scenarios and injuries that responders wanted to drill on. Participants were kept in the dark about the specifics of the event until faced with the exercise.

An important part of the exercise is the post-exercise discussion to review how things went, Feltner said. Three years ago, the biggest issue was inter-agency communication, and considerable progress has been made in that area since then, he said.

Having been involved in such exercises throughout his career, he said there are always areas where responders find areas for improvement.

Submitted Photo Ambulance crews separate “victims” into priority groups based on the severity of their injuries during a training exercise for emergency responders at the Minot airport Wednesday.

“Even if you have a well-planned response, something will happen that you are not expecting,” he said. But he added preparedness is far better than it once was.

“It’s really come a long way. When I worked for Northwest Airlines in 1990, I worked a real crash. Back then, we had very minimal plans for how to deal with families and survivors,” he said. “It has come a long way in terms of developing checklists and assigning responsibilities and drilling. We are much better prepared than we were.”