Wright-Patt stages mass-casualty exercise

  • Published
  • By Matthew Clouse
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Seconds after receiving a phone call that a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft reported an in-flight emergency, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fire Department sprang into action.

“The way the fire stations are set up, our firefighters can respond to an emergency anywhere on the airfield within three minutes,” said Bryan Weeks, 788th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief for training.

Fortunately, the in-flight emergency wasn’t real but the response was. It was part of a planned emergency management mass-casualty exercise that took place May 5 on Wright-Patterson AFB’s Area B.

Emergency services received an alert at approximately 9:15 a.m. that a C-17 “crash-landed” near the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The 788 CES Fire Department was the first to arrive at the “crash site” and began to assess the area.

“The first priority is to make sure there are no airborne contaminants at the crash site. Once the area is deemed safe, the priority becomes patient triage,” Weeks added.

88th Medical Group personnel, along with the Fire Department, performed triage on the “casualties” played by volunteers and mannequins and prepared them for transport to medical facilities.

“Large-scale exercises are important to accurately test how the base responds to a real-world incident,” said John Rehak, 88th Air Base Wing exercise and inspection program manager.

That response includes more than first responders. Wing staff agencies such as safety and public affairs also played a vital role for the base throughout the crisis.

During this exercise, the wing Safety Office stood up an interim safety board and public affairs held a mock joint press conference with the 445th Airlift Wing commander and 88 ABW vice commander to inform the media about the crash.

“This was a great opportunity to work with our 445th partners,” said Bob Purtiman, 88 ABW Public Affairs chief. “It was the first time we have ever exercised with them, so the time we spent on this was valuable. This realistic scenario allowed us to not only test our staff public-response processes but also gave our leaders the opportunity to work on their media-interaction skills.”

Wing inspection team members are now collecting and assessing exercise observations to determine how to be better prepared for such an event in the future.

“After an exercise is over, the inspector general will record the results,” Rehak said. “The results are observations and will be used by commanders to identify deficiencies in training.”