September 17, 2011
Every three years the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Airport (CHO) to hold a disaster drill. This year, more than 200 people took part including members of area fire departments, EMTs and volunteers.
At 10am Saturday, officials lit a simulator airplane on fire. CHO firefighters, along with members of area fire departments, responded to the scene.
"The adrenaline hits and you just think about the call, and what kind of plane it is, and how many passengers are on it," said Jonathan Shifflet, a firefighter at CHO.
Once the fire was put out, medical responders and firefighters began attending to victims. Each victim was color-coded based on the severity of their injury. Those with minimal injuries were sent to the green area, yellow for more severe, red for life-threatening and black for those that did not make it.
The experience was valuable for not only responders, but for those playing the victims as well.
"I'm studying community theater, so it's great for aspiring actors," said Stefani Grimm.
Several members of the University of Virginia's Nursing School also volunteered to be victims so they could learn how it feels to be on the other side of health care.
"It made me more sympathetic, because you are laying on the back board and you are learning how it felt with all the eyes looking on you, so you kind of have a sense of the fear that people must feel," said Jaynie Davis.
None of the volunteers were actually inside of the mock plane when it caught on fire, that's because the temperature reached 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even though the fire only took minutes to put out, those participating in the drill said Saturday's message will not burn out quickly.
"It can happen any day of the week, daytime or nighttime," said Shifflet. "Firefighters need to be prepared for this. It just prepares you mentally and physically."
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