Mock plane crash at SA airport helps responders practice for disaster

20-25 agencies, 250 people part of hourslong massive drill Wednesday

SAN ANTONIO – A plane crashes. It's on fire. People on board are injured.

Agencies across the city of San Antonio have to be prepared for it all. That's why every three years they conduct an emergency drill at the San Antonio International Airport. 

"Out here they're going to be near the aircraft, in the airfield environment and they'll be forced to use their real world equipment and make all that work and we'll learn a lot from it," said aviation director Russ Handy

SA Int'l Airport stages mass casualty emergency exercise

As smoke billowed from the plane airport, firefighters rushed in with hoses of water. If a plane were to crash, they'd be the first line of defense. 

"We have airport rescue firefighters and police and security and airfield professionals on the airfield ready to respond at a moment's notice, 24/7," Handy said.

He said they'll immediately suit up and start looking for survivors on the plane while others start assessing the injured passengers scattered around the scene.

Soon firefighters, EMS workers, police and other agencies begin pouring onto the runway. 

"One of the biggest challenges in an event like this is communication. We've got a three-page document of all the radio frequencies and phone numbers and can you get a hold of the right people quickly to respond," Handy said.

Typically the patients would be taken to local hospitals during the drill for real-life practice however because there was a real disaster, Hurricane Harvey, those hospitals are packed. So they created a makeshift one at the airport. 

After the fire and patients were taken care of, the investigation began. The Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, FBI and police began looking into the cause.

If it's determined there was criminal intent, the FBI will take the lead. If it's ruled an accident, the NTSB becomes the primary agency.

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