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Mock disaster puts Hartsfield-Jackson to the test
By A.B. Snedeker

When an organization is responsible for the safety of more than 250,000 customers every day, it has to be ready for anything — and be able to prove that it's ready.

To ensure that it is ready for any potential emergency on its 4,600-plus-acre campus and to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) emergency-preparedness requirements, Hartsfield-Jackson staged a mock disaster on April 23. The drill, known as Big Bird, involved the simulated crash of a passenger airliner.

"We have to be on the top of our game when it comes to emergency preparedness," Aviation General Manager Ben DeCosta said. "We use this type of large-scale drill to demonstrate that we are in fact ready to effectively handle whatever may happen at our Airport."

Within minutes of the emergency call about the crash, units from the Airport's Fire Department arrived to extinguish the fire. Seconds later, more than 30 emergency response vehicles were on the scene to attend to crash casualties.

Volunteers from the Airport community — dressed in torn clothes and made up with simulated injuries — lay scattered under the "wrecked" aircraft as the firefighters and emergency responders examined and evacuated the drill's victims.

"This is much more than a drill for our Fire Department," DeCosta said. "Today's drill included all Airport divisions involved in emergency response, as well as the FAA, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board], the FBI and our neighboring communities."

The Airport conducts large-scale emergency-response drills every three years to meet FAA certification requirements. Evaluators were on hand to assess the Airport's response to the simulated crash.

Big Bird Drill

Warren Jones (left), Aviation development manager, a "victim" of the simulated crash, talks about the experience with Atlanta Journal Constitution photographer Vino Wong. Several media representatives reported on the Big Bird drill.

Big Bird Drill

Rescue personnel move a "victim" away from the simulated crash site for further treatment.

 

 

 


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