April 21, 2018
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BIA plans mock mass disaster Saturday

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A military transport carrying civilians will crash and burn Saturday morning in a mock exercise to see how emergency responders in the area handle a full-scale mass casualty incident.

“We’ll start with an in-flight emergency, probably hydraulic failure or something like that,” Assistant Bangor Fire Chief Vance Tripp, a coordinator of the exercise, said Tuesday.

Then the plane will “crash” at the end of Bangor International Airport near the Ground Round at around 8:30 a.m., where an old L-1011 airliner fuselage will be set ablaze.

“The fire will indicate the crash,” Vance said. “At that point, we are going to put the fire out with the equipment that would normally do that.”

Saturday’s disaster exercise drill is held every three years and is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration to test emergency response procedures at BIA, Risteen H. Masters Bahr,  BIA’s marketing manager, said last week in an email.

The drill will put into motion the airport’s disaster plan, which draws on area firefighters, ambulance crews, police and other law enforcement, as well as military personnel from the Maine Air National Guard and others, Tom Robertson, director of the Penobscot County Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday.

Residents are being given advance warning of the exercise so they know not to call 911, Tripp said. The exercise is an opportunity to demonstrate the ability of participating agencies to command and control a mass disaster, he said.

Once the real fire is out, emergency crews from all over the region will tend to the walking wounded, who each will have a “scenario to play out,” Tripp said.

Fifty or 60 of the 100 or so “injured” are volunteers from the Penobscot Job Corps, Robertson said.

“The casualties will be on the ground moaning and groaning,” he said.

Seven area ambulances will take the injured to area hospitals, he said. Eastern Maine Medical Center, St. Joseph Hospital, Acadia, Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center and Penobscot Community Health Care are participating.

The Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross will set up a family center in the transit lounge in the terminal at BIA for “family members who witnessed the disaster,” Tripp said.

The entire exercise is scheduled to end just after noon.

“The main thing is getting the numerous agencies involved to play together,” Tripp said. “It makes them a little closer-knit and you can get more accomplished” if there ever is a real mass-casualty emergency.

“It’s a good opportunity for training,” Tripp said. “It tests everybody’s systems.”

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