The FAA requires airports to conduct a comprehensive disaster drill every three years. On July 12, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) did its thing, and it was quite a sight.
Volunteer victims included employees of the airport, several airlines, airfield support companies, the FAA, and the TSA. They received elaborate makeup at a remote hangar in order to maximize the realism of the drill.
Unlike the past two events I’ve covered, which were held on a runway that needed to be closed for an entire morning, this drill was held in a small valley between runway 34L and 34C, allowing most airport operations to run normally.
Safety outweighs absolute realism, so a staircase was constructed to allow access to the fuselage to avoid any real injuries during the exercise.
The volunteer victims were instructed to provide realistic issues for rescuers to confront, ranging from dazed people dragging their luggage aimlessly around the scene, people with various injuries (or no injuries) slowing things down by trying to take selfies, people yelling and screaming, walking wounded, and more.
There was no shortage of equipment – more than 50 rescue vehicles turned up: airport fire trucks, ladder trucks, hazmat vehicles, police cars, ambulances, and more.
Dozens of police and fire agencies from across the region participated in the exercise, drawing an estimated 175 firefighters.
Even though they used a partial 757 fuselage, the exercise was designed to simulate the crash of a 737-sized aircraft with 150 passengers.
Training is an essential component of properly-functioning emergency services – it’s always comforting to see how well prepared these agencies are for a real disaster scenario.