First responders train for disaster in Concord
By Lee Ann Sides Garrett
Morning sunlight streamed down on an ugly scene: bodies strewn around a field and a crashed airplane, its wing ripped from its body. Fire trucks screamed down the runway at Concord Regional Airport. The lead truck began spraying the airplane with dry chemical foam before it even stopped.
Rescuers rushed to victims. Some lay moaning in pain, others motionless and quiet. Concord emergency medical technicians began assessing their injuries. One man sat with his head in his hands, distraught over a friend’s death.
Victims who could walk passed through the spray of a fire hose to wash away any fuel or chemicals from the crumpled airplane. Emergency responders carried others through the spray on stretchers.
Caleb Miller held up a card fastened around his neck and said, “I have no skin on my hand and arm.” But his arm was fine.
Miller was part of a group of about 50 volunteers who participated in a disaster-response exercise at Concord Regional Airport on Saturday. The airplane “passengers” were part of Rowan Cabarrus Community College’s EMT training classes and the Concord and Life Safety Fire Department recruit training program.
Conducted jointly by the airport, Concord Fire, Cabarrus County EMS and the Odell Fire Department, the drill helped fulfill Federal Aviation Administration requirements for such training three times a year, said Concord Deputy Fire Chief Ray Allen. All agencies involved collaborated on what training was needed, tailoring a scenario to those specific needs.
The scenario: A plane experiences trouble after taking off at the airport. It is forced to return to the airport and crashes while trying to land.
“There have been crashes of smaller airplanes here before,” Allen said. “But nothing of this magnitude.”
“The drill was meant to give the fire department an opportunity to walk through a scenario and use the equipment on a small scale in a controlled situation,” said airport spokeswoman Deborah Clark. “So when an actual incident happens, we’ll be ready.”
Clark and Allen said the drill went very well.
Miller, a Concord Fire Department recruit, stood soaking wet with Ronnie Hicks and Clara Snipes from RCCC’s EMT classes waiting for transport to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast. At the hospital, they would help emergency room personnel train for a mass emergency.
“It was great getting to see how everything works.” Miller said.
Miller, Hicks and Snipes also agreed they were glad to be hosed down for decontamination, especially with the sun beating down.
“It’s hot!” Miller said.