GREENVILLE, Wis. — Airliners and other planes come and go safely every day from Appleton International Airport.
But the possibility of a crash is never far from the minds of safety crews and airport staff.
“It’s something that’s always in the back of our mind, and it has to be,” said Airport Director Abe Weber. “We want to make sure that we’re ready, we’re prepared and that we can respond.”
The airport hosted a multi-agency exercise Wednesday night simulating the crash of a 186-passenger airplane.
“Our goal is just to make sure that everybody that they have a job to do,” Weber said. “We want to make sure we’re securing the airfield, that we’re responding to passengers in need and that we’re out there prating to make sure we’re getting everything right. We want to continue to practice so that it almost comes as second nature.”
Every three years, the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to conduct this kind of exercise.
The drill tested the capabilities of both on-airport emergency crews as well as other agencies who would respond in the case of a crash or other incident.
It involved about two dozen agencies, including fire departments from around Outagamie County.
Outagamie County Emergency Management Director Paula Van De Leygraaf said a real event would have a region-wide impact.
“We would have resources coming in from other counties. We’d be pulling in resources from different parts of our county,” she said. “Based on whether or not we had patients who survived, it would inundate the hospitals in our area. All the way down to Oshkosh, Neenah and Appleton would have patients arriving at the hospitals with various degrees of injuries. It would definitely impact our community very heavily.”
Van De Leygraaf said these kinds of exercises are a vital part of preparation for everyone involved.
“It brings people together so that they know each other on a personal level. They’re practicing the things in a controlled environment that could happen in real life,” she said. “They practice, practice, practice and it makes people more efficient at doing their jobs.”
Weber said it’s all about handling a large traumatic event well.
“It’s just a great opportunity for us to all come together, practice in a simulated environment and make sure that we get it right,” he said.