Flathead crews train in emergency management exercise


Flathead crews train in emergency management exercise

KALISPELL, Mont. - What looked like the scene of a horrible tragedy in the Flathead today was only a rehearsal.

Flathead County emergency responders gathered at Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell for a mass casualty emergency management exercise.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports nationwide to do this every three years.

And this year, Mother Nature played a role here too.

"We're testing both the response and the communications aspect of the Flathead County comprehensive emergency management plan and our disaster plan for the Glacier Park International Airport," said Glacier Park International Airport Fire Captain Scott Miller

Crews used a helicopter with controlled flames and an old bus to be used to simulate the fuselage of the plane.

Victims were given characters to play to simulate different injuries that first responders would have to treat.

Over 15 agencies participated in the exercise which saw 40 volunteers act as victims of a scenario where a plane and a helicopter collide mid-air.

"I'd say they did an okay job.  There's always room for improvement," said Steven Gang.

Gang was one of those volunteers.

He played the victim.

"It's really hard to respond to a, I don't know how many people there are here today I'd say at least 30, 35 people.  There was inclement weather making things difficult so definite room for improvement but that's why you do these scenarios, utilize things to learn," Gang said.

Crews worked for over two hours together where they transported and treated the victims of the crash.

While a scenario like this one has never happened at the airport before, Glacier Park International Airport Fire Captain Scott Miller knows that crews in the Flathead have to be trained for any possible scenario.

"You always need to be ready and it's critically important.  That's what training is all about.  It doesn't matter if it's a firefighter training to go inside a structure fire or if its EMS people training in order to have a mass casualty," Miller said.

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