Tulsa International Airport holds drill to prepare for major disasters

TULSA, Okla. — For the first time since the pandemic was declared over, Tulsa International Airport and multiple emergency response agencies tested their skills and plans for if the day should come when a major disaster involving a commercial airliner occurs.

In its nearly one hundred year history, TIA has had numerous emergency landing events with planes big and small, but never has there been a fatal crash on airport property involving a commercial airliner.

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“We’ve got some airplane parts out there and lots of victims is what we’re really here for,” said Tim Hammer, TIA emergency operations manager, said.

Hammer said the airport is required every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration to hold a mass casualty disaster drill with area partners to maintain its certification as a safe airport of its size. In between the drills every three years, there are numerous meetings in between reviewing plans and procedures keeping them updated to current events.

“If there’s needs to be any adjustments that’s what we’re here for is to test the plan and test our resources available,” he said.

Volunteers acting as victims were given small slips of paper with a list of wounds and how to act to their staged injuries. Those assigned to unconsciousness were not allowed to talk to those responding to where they were sitting or laying.

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The simulation this time was a runway collision between an F-16 and a commercial airliner. Dozens would be injured, and four would be killed. There were even fires in large barrels set up for fire crews to put out before paramedics could enter the scene.

Mixed among the victims and responders were people in vests labeled “observer” who took notes on how their agencies responded, and any improvement will be addressed in an evaluation session later this week.