PREPARING FOR THE WORST: Agencies participate in mock plane crash

Published 4:48 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Camp Pioneer hosted a multi-agency disaster exercise drill simulating a plane crash in Troup County on Thursday morning.

TCSO Sgt. Stewart Smith said the training exercise has been in the planning stages for about nine months. 

During the exercise, law enforcement, fire, EMS, other first responders from Troup County, LaGrange, West Point, Hogansville and additional resources responded to the simulated crash.

The simulation allows outside agency evaluators to test their training for what could be a potential mass-casualty event. 

“It tests our response capabilities,” Smith said. “We want to test our limits and push [them] as far as we can.”

Agencies were called to the scene by actors following a script about a plane crash at Camp Pioneer. The responders knew the call was a drill but did not know what they were getting into. 

When the responders arrived, they encountered more than a dozen “victims” in costume and makeup to mimic injuries sustained during the crash. The victims were played by student volunteers from THINC Academy based out of Troup High. 

Troup Principal Chet Stewart said the students involved are on medical pathways at THINC.

The victims were then evaluated and triaged at the scene.

“Once the victims are evaluated on scene, they’ll be transported to WellStar West Georgia Medical Center for further evaluation. They’ll be accepting the patients and taking care of them, so it’s a multi-jurisdictional cross-training exercise for all the agencies involved,” Smith said.

Observers from multiple agencies were on hand to evaluate the response; what was done well and what needs improvement.

GEMA Field Coordinator Jason Ritter said that from the perspective of the scale of the exercise, it went well.

“Every public safety agency in the county responded, including the cities, West Point, Hogansville, everybody responded, which does not happen daily. It doesn’t happen every week. So to get everybody together and coordinate one event that can benefit every agency is kind of a cumbersome task. But overall I think it was handled very well,” Ritter said. 

Communication, particularly toward the beginning of the exercise, was a problem.

“Just like in a personal relationship, communication is always the number one problem. When you have this many people responding to an incident of this size, things can get lost in communication sometimes,” Ritter said. “This is an area for improvement. We’re never going to master it, but I think we can improve.”

It didn’t help that one of the teenage actors threw a wrench into the plans when they told responders that they heard a gunshot after the plane crash, which had not been an intended part of the simulation. 

Much of the exercise was also done in heavy rain, but as Sheriff James Woodruff noted, real emergency calls come in rain too, so they need to prepare for it.