ST. LOUIS - It's the worst-case scenario at an airport: a plane crash with dozens of victims.
At St. Louis Lambert International Airport Saturday morning, officials assisted in the crash of a simulated crash - but the flames they fought were very real.
"The fire department will respond. So, we'll test their time response. We'll test their firefighting capabilities."
And with dozens of volunteers posing as crash victims, first responders had their hands full trying to triage the most severely injured."
"We have a full-scale exercise like this to evaluate where we're at. And it just reminds people, the drill drills into them the emergency procedures and preparedness."
From the mobile command center supervisors oversaw the operation, taking care to stress realism.
"We want to make it as real as possible. So the people in the command bus are really trying to make sure that everything is going smoothly and everything is accounted for."
The scenario was made even more realistic with volunteers posing as reporters - pushing for up to date information.
"We understand the flight originated in San Francisco," said one volunteer. "Can you confirm that?"
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said exercises like Saturday's can be challenging for first responders whose first instinct is to spring into action, rather than deliberately go through potentially time-consuming steps.
"It's tough to simulate response capabilities and times because once guys see fire, they want to go. But I thought everything went good today," said Jenkerson.
And the airport director agrees, seeing improvements from the last time a drill like this was held.
"Even looking back three years ago compared to the coordination, I think this is much more coordinated," he added.
Saturday's exercise was a combined effort including airport fire and police personnel, other regional first responders and teams from SSM Health DePaul Hospital.
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