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Simulated plane crash planned

Practice test will determine how well Routt County responds

Susan Cunningham

A plane will try to land at Yampa Valley Regional Airport next year, call in an emergency, and make it to the runway in a fiery crash that could result in injuries and even deaths.

The “crash” on Oct. 2, 2005, will not be real. Instead, it is a carefully planned scenario that will involve emergency workers, government officials, doctors, police officers, firefighters and everyone in between. It is designed to test how well Routt County and nearby counties respond to a disaster involving a large number of people.

People who could be involved in such an emergency response met Friday to discuss the crash simulation in more detail and to determine objectives for the practice, including what county programs are most important to test through the practice.

After the crash simulation is done, the county’s response will be evaluated and areas for improvement will be determined.

A similar exercise was done last year, when county officials met and discussed how they would respond if a SARS outbreak took place in the county.

But this practice crash will test the county’s responses at a larger level, Routt County Emergency Services Manager Chuck Vale said.

“We need to push the envelope and then say, ‘How did we do?'” Vale said.

The simulated crash also made sense, as such practice is required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Friday’s meeting involved officials from Routt, Jackson, Eagle and Moffat counties. Some of the objectives brought up included how to determine what resources would be available to respond to the situation, how workers could give a large number of people medical attention quickly, whether translators would be available, how a communication center would operate and more.

Dr. David Cionni, medical director for EMS services, said medical management was key in such a situation because the overall response would be judged by how many people were quickly sent to the hospital, how many people were treated efficiently, and how many people died because they did not receive treatment fast enough.

Those issues have not been fully tested, and Cionni said he thinks it’s time to “take it to the next level.”

In the process of planning the practice crash, it’s not enough just to identify needs without then finding out how to fill those needs, Vale said. For instance, if officials needed to mobilize nurses quickly, a registry for current or retired nurses could be created. That way, the need can be filled in a time of emergency.

It’s important to practice responses to such emergencies, Vale said, because when a large-scale emergency happens, multiple governments, agencies, businesses and others have to work together.

“We’re trying to say we’re all going to come together and play at any given time,” Vale said.

Additional meetings are scheduled for Jan. 3, Feb. 3 and July 4, with the full-scale exercise planned for Oct. 2 at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, with a review starting Oct. 10.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com


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