Here's what they knew for the drill: A plane out of SFO had run into a flock of birds-knocking both engines out of service while the plane was flying over water. "A plane has gone down, mass casualties. The call has come out for all the resources to assist San Francisco International Airport with their emergency," Sgt. John Gonzalez San Mateo County Sheriff's Office announced. Emergency responders on boats rescued people like Vic Lee, a volunteer who pretended to have been on that plane. "I am suffering from hypothermia but other than that, I'm ambulatory. I can walk," he said.
SFO does these emergency response drills every year, but this is the first time in ten years they've conducted one on the water. The drill was motivated by a new boathouse. "It's a brand new facility. We've mapped out our ideas as far as how we'd want to respond. Now, we're going to test that idea and make changes if we need to," airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.
Not all of the action took place on the water. Once they rescued the people, they brought them to a triage area where they treated the patients, notified their families, and communicated with the media. "In the event of a real emergency, we couldn't handle this ourselves. We'd have to get support from surrounding communities and that's' another part of this exercise, is to test that mutual aid capability," McCarron said.
The patients said they felt like they were in good hands. "Very impressive, very earnest in what they're doing. It's really nice," CERT volunteer Linda Gularte said.
The FAA requires these drills once every three years, but SFO does them every year. Officials there say they hate the idea of a nightmare like this really happening and they really hate the idea of showing up unprepared.