Tulsa Airport Launches Full-Scale Disaster Drill

Wednesday, May 4th 2016, 8:19 am
By: Dee Duren

Tulsa area emergency responders spend their day perfecting their skills should Tulsa International Airport experience a crash.

The airport holds this kind of drill every three years to make sure emergency responders are on the same page when it comes to a large-scale disaster.

Wednesday scenario, a commercial aircraft crashed into a private plane and made an emergency landing.

With volunteer victims scattered among debris, and parts of a plane littering the runway, it looked like the scene out of an action film.

The full-scale emergency disaster drill at the airport is a way for first responders to stay up to date on how to react.

"It's something that you do over and over, and if you don't do it over and over you're not going to be prepared and you're going to make mistakes, and that's what our job is, we don't want to make mistakes," said Michael Atchison with the Tulsa Fire Department.

It was Atchison's first time commanding the drill. He said while it's good to practice some of the skills responders use regularly, there's one that's even more important when it comes to large disasters.

"We put fires out, we rescue people, we take care of them, we put them in the hospital, but our main thing is make sure we have good communication skills and to make sure we communicate well with all different types of agencies," he said.

Agencies from across Tulsa County - including the police department, sheriff's office, and Oklahoma Air National Guard - respond to things like this, so everyone knowing their role is key.

“It allows us to test all our resources and make sure we're all working together to ensure the safety of the traveling public," said Alexis Higgins with TIA.

And it's a situation no one ever wants to happen in real life.

"We just simulate if there was a true accident, which we hope that we never have, but you have to prepare yourself," Atchison said.

The FAA requires airports to do this every few years to stay current. TIA also has a tabletop discussion about the response plan yearly.

Airport officials said the drill had no impact on routine airport operations.