Disaster response drill at Dulles Airport brings actors, emergency responders together

Dulles International Airport looked like a disaster movie set today as the worst case scenario was acted out at one of four of the local airport’s tarmacs.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority conducted a full-scale simulation involving a security breach, an airplane on fire and a commercial plane veering off the runway with a broken landing gear -- all for the sake of hands on-training.

Actors dressed in ripped clothing and professionally-applied disaster makeup, mirroring gashes and wounds, played the over one hundred injured in the fake airport incident, limping from the planes to the ground.

Multiple branches of emergency response were deployed, with hundreds of responders reacting and managing the crisis as it unfolded in real time over the course of the three-hour simulation to challenge the responders to perform when faced with such a disaster.

The drill, required by the FAA every three years, brought together multiple components of emergency response necessary beyond just the immediate airport personnel, including local fire departments, EMTs, hospitals and a rapid response team handling crisis communication.

Robert Yinglng of the Washington Airports Authority says the realism of the drill helps the first responders reap the benefit of practice.

“We get hands on experience which is so valuable when it comes to working with actual actors playing victims and our mutual aid partners, something we drill for which we hope will never have to play out for real,” Yingling said today.

The training will identify where protocol failed, airport officials ay and where improvements must be made.

“We will reconvene after the exercise,” Tom Kenney, Deputy Fire Chief at Dulles Airport said today, “We will get together to figure out what worked well and we'll go back to the manual to revise it again.”

Local communities were alerted to the exercise in advance of the event, so no to alert them if they saw smoke, fire and emergency personnel responding in the area.

The drill did not delay or affect any travelers at the airport today.