Mass causality exercise tests abilities and builds partnerships

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jeremy J. McClure
  • 185th ARW Public Affairs
Flames rise up from the twisted metal wreckage as fire engines and ambulances race to the scene of a KC-135 Stratotanker that slammed into a building after a crash landing. Emergency personal quickly react to put out fires and attended to several injured passengers. Although the flames are imaginary and the blood fake, the members of the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing act as if it is real.

The chaos spread out on a parking ramp at the Sioux Gateway Airport Col. Bud Day Field on May 2, 2015 was part of triannual exercise to test the abilities of emergency responders that surround the airport to work together and respond to a mass causality event.

"To meet federal requirements, the airport must conduct a mass accident response drill every three years and emergency responders from the area participate in that drill," said John Backer, Operations Manager for the Sioux Gateway Airport.

"The local hospitals, the 185th, the Red Cross, and several fire departments from the area will participate in the drill," added Backer.

The City of Sioux City, Iowa operates the Airport and the 185th is a cotenant of the airport and provides fire protection and emergency medical services for the airport.

"Although we are a small airport, aircraft are flying over us every day and occasional, they have to land here when there is an emergency," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Albrecht who is the chief of the 185th Fire Protection Service Flight.

Although the unit is equipped and capable of a handling most emergencies, when there are high volumes of causalities, their ability to respond quickly becomes overwhelmed. That is when the neighbors come to help.

"We can't handle 20 or 30 patients on our own and the surrounding communities will respond to help," explained Albrecht.

The unit remembers know how quickly a quiet day can turn to chaos as just over 25 years, United Flight 232 crashed at the airport with 296 people on board. Several hundred members of the unit were on base that day and rushed to aid the survivors.

"There had been drills right before that happened and we took some lessons away from that crash," added Albrecht.

The exercise will also help the local hospitals and other fire departments evaluate their abilities to respond to this type of disaster and to provide mutual aid to their neighbors.

"We got to have mutual aid," explained Albrecht. "We give a lot of mutual aid and this is other's opportunity to give it back."

Exercises like this are the best way to ensure that the unit and the surrounding community is ready for any challenge that comes their way according to Albrecht.

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