The Arlington Municipal Airport held a mock crash of two airplanes to run a drill of emergency response abilities on Oct. 9.
“We’re doing an emergency exercise at Arlington Municipal Airport. What it is designed to do is test our emergency response should we have an incident here at the airport,” said Kristin Banfield, communications manager for the city of Arlington.
During the drill emergency personnel, airport staff and other agencies came out onto the Arlington Airport field where the ‘crash’ happened and performed as they would during an actual emergency.
“The only way you can test it is to simulate it as realistically as possible. We’ve given limited information to our first responders,” said Banfield.
Banfield added it’s vital that the agencies are ready to work together if a real event were to happen.
“The really important part of this is that from time to time we do have emergencies at the airport. They don’t happen very often, but that’s why we need to practice, to make sure we know what we know and figure out what we don’t know,” she said.
The ‘victims’ of the crash were played by Arlington High School drama students, who laid out on the airport runway next to a fuselage donated by a local airport for the drill and by a small plane.
“My character had a broken nose and her fiancé was badly injured and was unconscious and unresponsive,” said local student Mattie Birdsong.
“It was really interesting to become the character and get in the mindset,” she said.
She said she wanted to come out to help the drill by making it a more realistic drill.
“I thought it would be good to help the medical team and safety team by helping to make it a more immersive experience,” she said.
Actors help responders practice keeping their cool while dealing with people who are in an emotional state.
“It tests our ability to respond in a calm manner,” said Banfield, "to make sure that they can tactfully handle a situation and make sure everyone stays safe.”
There were multiple fire agencies at the drill, as well as Cascade Valley Hospital personnel, Arlington police, staff from other local airports and the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s office.
“The medical examiners don’t get to practice very often in what they do, in terms of a larger scale incident, so we like to make sure to include them,” said Banfield.
If an emergency event were to happen at Arlington it would likely involve emergency response from around the area.
“It would definitely be a multi-agency response. We would have potential to even pull from Everett,” said Banfield. She said Darrington, Oso and Silvana fire departments would all likely be called to help.
Part of the purpose of the drill is to see how the agencies would respond together as well.
“It’s great to be able to practice these kinds of incidents because it’s not just going to be Arlington Fire and Arlington Police,” said Banfield. “We need to make sure we’re talking the same language and that people know how we’re going to act and respond."
Banfield said that the FAA recommends that the airport runs a drill once every three years.
“We try and work with the other airports in the area, such as Skagit and Renton, and help with their exercises, so our staff works with these exercises every year,” she said.