A Mock Airline Disaster: Perfect timing in Santa Rosa

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- For airline passengers, this would be just another uneventful day at Sonoma County Airport. Unknown to them, in a remote part of the field, we watched a disaster in the making-up of head traumas, compound fractures, and other ghoulish nightmares.

"How does it feel," we asked high school student Gage Houston about gash above his eye.

"It itches," he said.

Then, the radio crackled. "This is a drill for a Dash-8... plane on the runway." It looked and felt real enough for Sonoma County emergency responders, for whom today's scheduled mock plane crash could not have been more timely considering yesterday's Southwest emergency in Philadelphia.

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They do the drills every three years.

"We knew we would have a plane crash and victims," said Santa Rosa Fire Captain Greg McCollum. However, he and other first responders would not know the details until they arrived and found roughly forty people spread across the field and inside the plane, all with injuries realistic enough to force tough decisions about triage.

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"There is a whole checklist we go through to find out what may be wrong," said firefighter Tom Cozinr. "What surprises you is the amount of tragedies. They throw that at you blind."
Steve House from the Red Cross volunteered to the role of a passenger with a broken back. "They treated me like a board which is how you should be treated with a spine injury," he said."I like the way the move methodically. No one ran or pushed. They read the situation well."

First responders tell us the day did reveal some hiccups in terms of getting enough ambulances here, faster---and in radio communications.

"We have to communicate or these incidents will overwhelm us " explained Cyndi Foreman of the Rincon Valley and Windsor Fire Protection Districts. "I mean, these incidents will unfold."

Best to learn, she said, without real lives at stake.

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