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Airline Crash Drill

At approximately 10 a.m., on Sunday, Oct. 27, the Wantagh Fire Department , assisted by many local departments including Levittown, was notified of a possible plane crash in the vicinity of the Jones Beach Theatre. Arriving fire units found a commercial airliner indeed had crashed and was on fire with numerous victims of the disaster strewn about the parking lot. Fire had extended to a shed (actual live burn) and there were victims trapped in a building.

The scenario didn’t just happen without effort, it took months of planning. Permission had to be obtained, agencies had to be notified and an airliner secured. Fortunately an airliner existed that was utilized for such training purposes. It was located at Kellogg College in Battle Creek, MI. Through the efforts of the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting (ARFF), the mobile trainer was secured for the drill.

Set up as a fifth-wheel trailer it arrived at Jones Beach a day before the drill.

Propane burners, which are controlled remotely, are ignited upon the fuselage, as well as in water pans which surround the aircraft.

With the aircraft in place, victims of the disaster were needed. Many fire departments have Explorer Posts for the young men and women within there districts and the call went out. Some 130 Explorers along with their advisors from the Wantagh, Seaford, East Meadow, Bellmore, North Merrick, Levittown, Massapequa, Rockville Center and Garden City Park Fire Departments responded to the request.

The Explorers all arrived early on the morning of the exercise, reporting to a tent where various stages of make-up is applied to each. They receive their roles as victims, some with burns, broken limbs, various impact injuries and unfortunately some deceased. The Explorers were then were placed around the outside of the aircraft, bodies scattered across the parking field. Upon arrival of first responders, each victim was accessed for their injuries. This initial assessment put into place a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) and the request went out for additional ambulances as well as the response of various agencies.

Ambulances from Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, East Meadow, North Bellmore, Levittown, Merrick, Bethpage, North Merrick, Point Lookout and the West Islip Fire Departments along with Nassau County Police and the Wantagh/Levittown Volunteer Ambulance Corp responded. In addition Major Emergency Response Vehicles (MERV) from Suffolk County, FDNY, Yonkers and Port Authority Police responded.

Also responding was the Nassau County’s OEM, a Nassau County Logistics Unit and the Nassau County Coroners Office. In the coroners tent victims were searched, photographed and examined for identifying markings. A morbid scenario, but one that is as real as it can get as past history has taught us.

Additional engines and ladders from other departments also responded to assist in extinguishing of the flames.

All agencies involved worked hand in hand to sort out the various problems that arise in such an incident. Each agency involved took home the knowledge that some things worked well while others needed improvement, thus the reason for such a drill.

The drill ended at approximately noon with participants returning to Wantagh Fire Headquarters to fill out assessment sheets and to enjoy a light lunch. Fire units from Seaford, East Meadow and Syosset who stood by while Wantagh units operated at the beach were released with thanks.