Emergency staff hone skills at mock crash | AspenTimes.com

Emergency staff hone skills at mock crash

Charles Agar

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Area emergency crews honed their skills and improved communication Saturday when they responded to a mock airplane crash at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport Triennial drill.Fire and ambulance crews from Basalt, Snowmass and Aspen, as well as members of local police departments, and the Airport Fire and Rescue – about 100 people all together – participated in the event.”The goal of the drill is to improve communication and coordinate the energies of different agencies,” said Jim Elwood, director of aviation at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.

The scenario: A plane takes a sharp right at takeoff, crashes into two parked planes and rolls to a stop at the general aviation area near he south end of the runway. Each team delayed its response for about the same amount of time it would take to muster and drive to the scene.Fire crews stabilized the crash site, while medical teams took care of the “injured,” mostly volunteers from a Colorado Mountain College EMT class. “Things went very smoothly,” Elwood said. The most important criterion for a successful drill is no actual injury to participants on the ground, he added.Crews practiced the response phase of the emergency, calling it quits after final transport of the injured. Follow-up stages include returning the airport back to normal, contacting the families of the dead and injured, and informing the press, Elwood said.

Members of the press were in attendance, and a group of observers – airport staff, airline personnel and members of emergency organization – tried to spot “soft spots” and areas to improve procedures. Participants and observers filled out comment sheets, and Ellen Anderson, emergency management coordinator for Pitkin County, will prepare a report in coming months.”We take those lessons learned and make corrective actions if needed,” Elwood said.Elwood estimated that Saturday’s drill would cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Airport administration will donate to the Red Cross for their service in providing food and drinks.

Elwood wanted to thank the participants who dedicated Saturday – opening day of the ski season – to the safety drill.”We are blessed with some very dedicated and committed emergency providers in our valley,” Elwood said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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