With smoldering wreckage still smoking nearby, victims lay sprawled across the tarmac at Tweed-New Haven Airport—pretending to be dead or dying, burned and bleeding “zesty mint flavor” blood.
Firefighters rushed to their aid, kneeling down to read the laminated signs around victims’ necks, indicating age, respiration rate, and whether they had a palpable pulse. Within minutes, emergency responders from New Haven and East Haven had set up a triage system and were loading patients into waiting ambulances.
Left behind on the grass were five casualties, covered with white sheets.
Luckily, it was only a drill, a simulated plane crash at Tweed airport, Tuesday morning.
That’s why the “victims”—teenage actors from East Haven and New Haven—wore vital signs around their necks. The red liquid oozing from their fake wounds was stage blood, the mint-flavored variety.
Tuesday’s emergency simulation was the latest triennial drill required by the Federal Aviation Administration. The New Haven and East Haven fire departments participated along with AMR medical response.
The event was a chance to troubleshoot coordinated emergency responses between several agencies. “It’s a critical opportunity for us to practice,” said Tim Larson, the Tweed airport authority’s executive director.
The drill allowed emergency personnel to assess response times, access, staffing and equipment needs. It included not just on-the-scene response, but hospital intake at Yale-New Haven.
The premise of the drill was that a landing commercial passenger plane had crashed into a small private plane on the runway. The two planes were represented by a pick-up truck and a school bus, lying on its side.
The plane-crash victims suffered from a variety of wounds. East Haven nursing student Briana Minichino (pictured) had guts spilling out of her abdomen.
Others were burned or wounded, sitting down or lying lifeless.
At 11 a.m., a pyrotechnics crew blew up the bus and truck. Click the video to see the explosion.
The explosion sent up a huge plume of white smoke, which turned to black smoke.
An airport emergency response truck was the first to respond and began dousing the flames.
Firefighters from both towns responded moments later. Through a loudspeaker, an East Haven firefighter instructed victims who could walk to proceed to a tent nearby.
Responders began to inspect the victims and mark them with Priority 1, 2, or 3, signs, indicating which needed immediate attention.
Priority 1 patients were removed first.
Victims were loaded into waiting ambulances,
or placed onto color-coded tarps, based on their priority level.
After the first round of ambulances left, Priority 2 patients lay freezing in the cold, waiting for the next round to show up.
New Haven firefighter Angel Aviles was wearing Google Glass, part of a New Haven start-up’s efforts to create a new high-tech medical-response product. Aviles was connected through the wearable camera and eye-display device to a doctor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, with whom Aviles conferred as he was triaging patients.
“Do you remember what happened?” Aviles said to patients. “Can you move your legs? Where does it hurt?”
Of 29 victims, firefighters were able to help most. Some weren’t so lucky.
“It went very well,” said Assistant East Haven Fire Chief Chuck Licata. Everything went smoothly, and the coordination between agencies was a success, he said.
“You could see the timely response,” said Larson. The firefighters showed up fast and got things under control within minutes, he said. “They were hauling.”