NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you flew in or out of Nashville International Airport Friday, you might have noticed a lot of emergency vehicles out on one of the runways. Don't worry, it was just a drill.
"We wanted to test our response putting out an actual fire, rescuing a few victims out of it," said Captain Chris Schuff with Nashville International's Department of Public Safety. "The only way to learn from it is to come out here and actually put our protocols to work."
Airport response staff, Nashville Fire, Nashville EMS and even a few local hospitals took part in the training exercise required every three years by the FAA.
In this year's scenario, a plane crashed on the runway colliding with two cars filled with airport contractors. First responders had to put out the flames, triage the survivors from the flight and rescue the trapped passengers in the cars. "We just try to challenge ourselves each year by doing something a little bit different," said Schuff.
It wasn't just fire and smoke that added to the realism, so did many of the volunteers playing the roles of victims. At one point, a firefighter handed a mannequin baby to a volunteer, who feigned relief when his child was back in his arms.
"We want it to be as realistic as possible," said Doug Kreulen, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Airport Authority.
Normally, these drills feature nearly one hundred volunteers playing the roles of victims, but because of COVID-19, about half of them were replaced by mannequins to help preserve social distancing.
Inside the sleek Emergency Operations Center, leaders from all the respective agencies discussed the strategy in real time and then communicated the plans to their crews in the field.
Like any other test, every decision made is graded by safety experts that were observing on site. "They’ll come in and evaluate our response, they’ll give us some tips, things they saw, things we can do better," said Captain Schuff.
The hope is, if this should ever come to pass, everyone involved will know just what to do. "It puts that training to the test to see what we’ve learned, what we can get better at every day," said Schuff