On Saturday morning, a plane will crash and burn at St. Mary’s County Airport in Hollywood, and there will appear to be casualties. However, it’s all a planned practice drill.
Between 150 and 175 people are expected to participate in the mass-casualty drill, which has been planned since the spring, said Bob Kelly, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Services and Technology. Each volunteer fire department and rescue squad in St. Mary’s, plus responders from Patuxent River Naval Air Station, the sheriff’s office and Maryland State Police, are expected to attend — “almost everybody. They’ve all been invited to participate,” said Gerald Gardiner, emergency management manager for St. Mary’s County government.
Emergency vehicles are going to stage at Smoke Hill Road in the Wildewood neighborhood at 8 a.m. Saturday and then respond to a simulated aircraft accident, however, “the participants are not aware of what the [exact] scenario is,” Kelly said.
More than 20 volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol will act as victims, and will be made up to appear bloodied and broken from the accident, “to make it look somewhat lifelike,” Gardiner said.
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital’s emergency room is also involved in the drill. “We’re actually transporting folks,” Kelly said, to the hospital from the county airport to the emergency room in Leonardtown. But the ambulances will be responding without lights flashing and horns blaring, Gardiner said. Actual emergency calls for ambulances would supersede the drill.
“It’s a good drill for the hospital getting multiple victims that normally might be [then] be transported out of the area because of the extent of their injuries,” Gardiner said.
Those portraying victims will have roles to play, with cards on them to describe their injuries and first responders will be evaluated by their chiefs to see how well they react. Kelly said the drill will also further test the new emergency radio communications system, which moved to next-generation technology on Aug. 5.
There will be an electronic sign notifying neighbors in Wildewood of the Saturday morning drill, which should be finished by noon. “It’s just going to be a lot of extra equipment in the area [with] some smoke or fire” that may be visible to neighbors, Gardiner said.
The last mass-casualty drill conducted was in Leonardtown at the old Pennie’s Bar about four or five years ago, he said.