Emergency drill prepares personnel for airport disaster - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Emergency drill prepares personnel for airport disaster

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The top priority is saving lives.

How to make sure that happens requires an amazing amount of cooperation between numerous agencies.

That's why more than 25 area agencies converged on the Waterloo regional Airport Thursday afternoon for a Triennial airport emergency training drill.

The mock scenario had a make-believe American Airlines flight from Chicago to Waterloo suddenly lose altitude in a microburst after being cleared to land on Runway 30. The plane crashes and breaks in two, killing 15 and injuring 53. The Waterloo Airport Fire Department is first to respond to the scene, followed quickly by Waterloo Fire Rescue and all other area first responders from nearby communities.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires the simulated airport emergency drill every three years. Waterloo Airport Director, Mike Wilson, says the job of his Airport Fire Department is to put out any flames, while Waterloo Fire Rescue takes care of extracting passengers and getting treatment started.

"We have the fire trucks at the airport, but we're a limited staff," Wilson said. "We put out the flames and Waterloo Fire extracts people from the aircraft.”

While Waterloo has never experienced a major air disaster, authorities know they must always be ready. The crash of United Airlines Flight 232 in July of 1989 certainly proved that. Had the timing been just a little different on July 19, 1989, Flight 232 may very well have made its emergency landing at the Waterloo Airport, instead of the Gateway Airport in Sioux City.

Waterloo Director of Safety Services, Dan Trelka, says the drill provides valuable insight into how the various agencies work together in a time of disaster.

“There are many things we hope to accomplish, but, we want to see how all of these entities function together. We want to check the response of personnel, the equipment, how the equipment is working. In these situations, you're just sometimes trying to control chaos, until you can get people from the scene, assess the situation and take care of business," Trelka said.

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