MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – At about 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 29, a loud siren wailed at the Morgantown Municipal Airport to signal the start of an important training exercise.
“This was the triennial airport emergency exercise that we are required to conduct for the FAA. By regulation, every three years we conduct one. Off years, we perform tabletop exercises instead. So, this year, we’re doing full scale, where we involve all of our mutual aid partners, local hospital systems. And, we’re working together to make sure everything is working: that our communications system is working together, that everything is working as it needs to, by the plan, so that if we have an actual incident we don’t have a problem that day. We want everything to hold together, so this is our practice.”Jonathon Vrabel – Airport Director
The exercise was very involved, but it had to be to fully test the system.
It involved volunteers who played victims of a plane crash, fire crews and ambulances from Monongalia, Marion and Preston counties.
Along with the Morgantown Police Department, they all helped to simulate what a worst-case scenario looked like.
“We had an air carrier crash,” Vrabel said. “But we also had a helicopter that was flying over at the same time that was shot down by an active shooter. So, that’s what you saw, the police presence come in. They came out to seduce that active shooter and remove him from the area, to protect our responders.”
First responders put out the fires and attended to the needs of volunteers who were medical students from WVU Medicine and volunteers from the WVU fire Extension Service.
After patients were triaged, they were then put into ambulances and sent to Ruby Memorial Hospital for further treatment.
The hospital, Vrabel said, received patients through its emergency department as part of the airport and its own preparedness exercise.
There were some technical difficulties at the airport caused by the rain, but, overall, Vrabel said he was happy with the outcome.
“I think the exercise, from what I saw today, it looked really good,” Vrabel said. “We will do a hotwash, and we’ll debrief on everything that took place. And, we will see what we did well, what we didn’t do so well and we’ll focus on those and make sure that those get corrected for our next drill and/or our actual incident.”
The airport director said he was grateful for all of the airport’s partners that took part in Thursday’s training exercise.
“We’re very appreciative. These are all our mutual aid partners, and without them, we couldn’t do this. We need their help. We’re too small of an organization, ourselves, to be able to deal with that, so with them here, they’re providing the resources that we need to take care of our community.”