First Responders Train In Airport Disaster Drill

BAY COUNTY, Fla. - During an emergency crisis, it takes quick thinking and sharp senses for first responders to save lives.

On Thursday at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, those skills were put to the test.

First responders from all over Bay County packed the airport to train for an aircraft disaster.

"We're doing our tri-annual exercise which is required by the FAA, but it really is a culmination of ongoing training efforts," said Beaches International Airport Executive Director, Parker McClellan.

Everyone from officials at the command center, to local police, and Arnold High School students were in place.

"It's very exciting but it's also very scary 'cause you realize things like this actually happen," said Arnold H.S. Junior, Suzanne Nelson.

McClellan said the students add more realism. 

"It helps develop, you know, to make it more of a realistic drill, " said McClellan.

"The things that you have seen today are all those various components - everything from putting out the fire - the initial communications - to reuniting family members," added McClellan.

The Arnold Theater students learned some lessons as well.

"It's a very good experience to help you like - learn what to do in a very dangerous situation," said Arnold H.S. Sophomore, Blakely Webb.

Airport Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Swearingen said communication is key to saving lives.

"Bay County Fire & Rescue is on scene with us. They're a great partner. They help us with our communications and pitch in where they can," said Swearingen.

"It's all team effort and we try to work very hard that if something were to happen at the airport, that the entire community would be involved," added McClellan.

After the drill, officials conduct a 'hot wash' or an evaluation for improvements on training.

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