|By Carmelo Turdo|
St. Louis Downtown Airport participated in a regional readiness exercise Thursday involving first responders, local health departments and hospitals from 15 counties in the bi-state area. The exercise is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Cities Readiness Initiative to test the Regional Extended Dispersing Policy in response to a simulated terrorist attack involving a release of anthrax. St. Louis Downtown Airport is one of three dispersing points in the St. Louis area for medicine and medical personnel in response to an anthrax outbreak.
Emergency and terrorism response vehicles were stationed in the airport's main parking lot, including an EMS Triage and Treatment Vehicle and a Divisional Expedient Shelter Systems tent provided by MABAS - Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. MABAS works with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to respond to disaster situations and partners with over 1600 fire stations. Standardization of operations and methods makes MABAS compatible with nearly any deployment host location.
The most visually spectacular portion of the exercise, though somewhat confusing because of its visibility, was the response to a planned fire set in the hay-stuffed fuselage of a Cessna 310 positioned on the west apron of the airport. The aircraft was prepared and intentionally lit by firefighters about 1:30 P.M. and allowed to burn for a minute before the airport and Sauget, IL firefighters arrived at the scene. The purpose of the aircraft crash scenario was to test the response of the various agencies to an interruption in the distribution of medical supplies to affected victims caused by the event of a purposely-crashed aircraft. The response from the firefighters was part of the exercise plan, but not a test of the rescue capacity of the airport's fire department. Response to aircraft emergencies and in drills at the airport has historically been measured in seconds, and the purposeful prolonging of the crash/fire event was designed to accomplish the objectives of the overall exercise.
The crash/fire portion of the exercise was completed in about twenty minutes, during which time multiple fire departments and other agencies carried through with their response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires regional exercises like this one every five years.
The Aero Experience thanks St. Louis Downtown Airport, Bi-State Development and all who participated in today's regional readiness exercise. Some material for this story was provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.