Disaster exercise held at Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport
Local agencies practice emergency response
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Local emergency response agencies had the opportunity Tuesday to practice handling an airplane fire at the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport.
The mock aircraft disaster exercise simulated a plane with 50 passengers and three crew members having the right engine explode, while proceeding to taxi out to a runway, and engulfing the aircraft’s right side in flames.
The exercise involved Oneida County Emergency Management, Oneida County Ambulance Service, Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, Rhinelander Fire Department, Rhinelander Police Department and the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport.
Airport director Joe Brauer noted the full-scale exercise is held every three years, while a “table-top exercise” is done in the two years in between.
“What the whole program is about is to save lives,” Brauer said. “So what our people do, and the firefighters do, is to create a path from the door of the fuselage to an area that’s safe.”
To coordinate the response by local agencies, county emergency management director Ken Kortenhof said a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) is used.
“It’s what the fire departments use to preplan their responses and their resources,” Kortenhof said. “We have those pretty much narrowed down as to how long it’s going to take to get those resources to get on the scene, and then obviously it’s going to involve the resources leaving the scene to transport those patients as well.”
Rhinelander assistant fire chief Tom Waydick said the exercise provides an opportunity of being able to go through what to do in a real emergency.
“We always do incident action reviews, and we’ll go through what worked well (and) what didn’t work,” Waydick said. “Communications on most all of our incidents are an issue, not just with our own departments, but we have agencies coming in now in a situation like this from around the area that we don’t normally work with.”