Sirens to signal crash drill BWI: Airport to have triennial crash training exercise with about 400 people participating.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Residents near Baltimore-Washington International Airport can expect to be awakened Saturday by fire sirens piercing the morning air and see a plume of smoke coming from the airport. But don't worry. It's only a drill.

From 9 a.m. until noon, about 400 people will be scurrying about a section of the airfield near Dorsey Road, pulling survivors from a crashed 727, putting out fires and caring for survivors as part of a drill designed to test and refresh their emergency skills.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial airports to conduct emergency-plan exercises every three years. Everyone who would be involved in responding to a real crash must participate under FAA rules.

On Saturday, medical examiners, forensic science teams and others will deal with 100 casualties, some of them crash dummies, looking for survivors after a mock ground collision involving a twin-engine airplane carrying five people and a jetliner carrying 180.

Firefighters from jurisdictions around the airport will head down Dorsey Road to help airport firefighters battle the blaze that results from a crash and help injured passengers to safety.

Meanwhile, police from the state Mass Transit Administration will cordon off the site, and emergency personnel will alert the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and other nearby hospitals that the injured will soon be coming.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross will be notified and will bring in teams of counselors to help firefighters and other rescue workers deal with stress.

And just to make it seem as real as possible, airport officials will set up a sympathy room for relatives of the victims and a news briefing room.

"We're really trying to simulate as much of a real situation as we can," said Garry M. Pace, BWI acting fire chief and training officer for fire and rescue service.

Not everything can be as real as possible, he said. Rescue equipment and personnel wouldn't usually be waiting at the airport -- they would arrive according to their function and the need, with firefighters and ambulances generally being the first on the scene.

Probably, it would take them longer than 15 minutes to put out a fire. And actual crash site investigations can take several days.

"We're simulating and maybe compressing two days of a function into three hours," Pace said.

But the drill gives airport officials a chance "to see how well other agencies interact with the Fire Department," said fire Lt. Frank Branter, who will serve as incident commander for the exercise. "We're going to interact with other agencies that don't play a role with the Fire Department until [a crash occurs]," he said.

No commercial airliner has crashed at or near BWI, but airport officials say the drills help them be sure they will ready if there is one.

"They get very intense," said Pace, who has been involved in six drills in his 18 years at BWI.

He said he was relieved that that there have been no crashes during his time at the airport.

"I don't want to see that," he said. "We train for it, but. " His voice trailed off.

Pub Date: 5/15/96

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