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Fort Drum, civilian first responders to train at simulated plane crash on Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield


FORT DRUM — The emergency response capabilities for military and civilian medical crews will be tested next week as the post simulates the response to a plane crash on Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.

The test, to be held Thursday and Friday, is part of regular training that takes place through the year to handle a variety of situations under federal preparedness guidelines.

“It’s important that we all can speak the same language,” said Terry A. Byard, the post’s installation emergency manager. “If and when an actual event happens, we’ve already established those close personal relationships between the post and civilian community.”

Mr. Byard said on Thursday crews will respond to the scenario, in which a National Guard C-130 plane carrying soldiers home from deployment crashes at the airfield after its landing gear fails. The aircraft will have 65 soldiers on board with simulated injuries, along with several dummies to represent soldiers killed in the crash.

In addition to removing soldiers from the large plane, crews also will have the challenge of decontaminating victims covered in simulated jet fuel.

Mr. Byard said during the training, people may see some smoke along with increased traffic from emergency vehicles on Route 26. He said smoke would be limited due to the isolated location on the airfield where the training will occur.

Soldiers will be taken by regional ambulances and military buses to Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, and Carthage Area Hospital.

Mr. Byard said air evacuation crews will not be included in the training.

On Friday, post officials will test their ability to track wounded soldiers along with measuring environmental impacts of the hypothetical crash and filing appropriate notifications with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Krista A. Kittle, a spokeswoman for Samaritan Medical Center, said the training was a way to gauge the hospital’s readiness to deal with a large group of patients brought in at one time.

“If we have a situation like that, how do we flex up?” Ms. Kittle said.

In addition to testing its capacity for large numbers of patients, the training will allow staff to practice with the hospital’s decontaminating showers.

The post usually holds one larger scale emergency training exercise per year, testing responses to a variety of situations. In past years, military and civilian teams have responded to scenarios such as the presence of a gunman, a train derailment and an outbreak of a deadly communicable disease. Mr. Byard said it has been a few years since crews have trained for a potential plane crash.

Asked whether he saw any issues with holding a training exercise around a plane crash scenario days after the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Byard said the training would show the public how it can prepare for various hazardous situations.

“If the public knows we train and work hard for these kinds of events, hopefully it gives them some kind of satisfaction,” he said.

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