Airport personnel, first responders and other emergency workers trained Thursday as part of an airplane crash exercise at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — Emergency responders from across the area participated in an emergency training drill Thursday morning at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport.
The exercise was one required by the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency asks airports to conduct drills every three years to simulate and evaluate response to a commercial airplane crash. The Idaho Falls airport was due for training last year, but COVID-19 put things on hold until Thursday’s training.
“Aircraft incidents are very infrequent, but we want to make sure that we’re ready if something does happen,” Idaho Falls Regional Airport Director Rick Cloutier said. “If a catastrophic event does happen, we train for it. We practice for it so we can help the victims any way possible and do our best.”
Idaho Falls Fire Department Deputy Chief Jon Perry evaluating the response of firefighters at the training exercise. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com
The U.S. Department of Transportation says that since 2000, the chance of having an airplane crash averages 0.014% per 100,000 departures. Idaho Falls adding more flights over the coming weeks increases that chance, but only slightly.
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“The more operations you have, again you increase your risk,” Cloutier said. “We want to make sure we’re ready to respond to anything.”
To get everyone on board, the exercise involved the Idaho Falls Fire Department, Idaho Falls Police Department, the American Red Cross, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and Bonneville County Office of Emergency Management. Idaho Falls city spokesman Bud Cranor also said an additional 36 volunteers played the role of victims in the crash, with fake blood and injuries, adding to the realism.
“Doing something like this gives you some perspective about the tragedies that people could go through,” said Kylie Atwood, a volunteer for the exercise.
An Idaho Falls Fire Deparment airport fire truck at a training exercise at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com
Atwood said she liked the idea of how participating in the event helps first responders potentially help neighbors, friends and even family who use the airport.
“I really admire our emergency personal, and I think it’s just amazing to watch them work,” volunteer Jody Mortensen said.
Cloutier said when an aircraft emergency begins, airport staff can pick up “a crash phone” that gives a direct line to the airport’s fire department and other responders without having to call 911.
Thursday’s exercise took the firefighters through the process, rolling out from their fire station near the airport’s terminal to the simulated crash site, where two school buses were parked on one of the runways in place of actual airplanes. It took only minutes to rescue everyone on board.
“We’re tested every year on our response times,” Cloutier said. “Our fire department can be anywhere on the airport property in less than three minutes. … Their reaction time is fantastic.”
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