San Antonio International Airport conducts emergency exercise

Routine training exercise simulates emergency incident involving plane crash

SAN ANTONIO – Hundreds of people took part Wednesday in a training exercise that simulated a plane crash at the San Antonio International Airport.

More than 35 emergency units responded to pieces of a Boeing 737 aircraft spread across the field at the airport.

Flames erupted from the mock plane and smoke filled the air as first responders rushed to the mock scene.

The Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC) helped coordinate the simulation. Airport staff was joined by many groups that played a role in the training, including the San Antonio Fire Department.

“What we’re going to simulate today is basically a large plane going down with about 100 occupants, souls on board. When you think about that, you are looking at a building that’s landed sideways that is wrapped in fuel,” SAFD Chief Charles Hood said.

There are various tools needed to respond accordingly to a possible plane crash.

“We have infrared vision on these fire trucks, the foam trucks, so they can see through smoke because we don’t want to have any injuries,” Hood said.

One of the biggest tests was communication between the various responders.

“We’re able to communicate well that we would be able to move these patients in the correct way to mitigate the disaster. And that includes the hospitals,” said STRAC Chief of Operations Vance Meade.

The tests take months to coordinate, but they are of the utmost importance.

“It’s so important for us because every day we train, we train on responses. But to simulate something this large, a mass casualty incident with a fire, we need to see how we perform. We need to make sure that our procedures are good and that we’re giving the best performance out here today,” Hood said.

The airport also has its own fire department because of FAA mandates.

“It’s a big deal because it proves that the emergency response system here is up to the task of dealing with major situations like this,” Meade said.

The fire was extinguished, the actors moved properly, and the communications appeared crisp. But of course the goal is to never have to implement these measures

“Hopefully if we test it, it won’t happen,” Meade said.

The exercise is required every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for all airports in the U.S. that have commercial air carrier service.


About the Authors:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.