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Emergency responder drill prepares response to plane crash at Watertown International Airport (VIDEO)


DEXTER — Emergency crews were put to the test Saturday morning as they responded to a crash scenario at the Watertown International Airport.

Crews had to “rescue” 25 passengers from a plane, represented during the drill by a school bus, that, in the scenario, slid off the runway after landing. After recovering the victims, crews in a real emergency would have to triage the patients and begin their medical care.

Joseph D. Plummer, Jefferson County director of Fire and Emergency Management, said the drill’s setting at an active airport created a new set of challenges for responders, such as knowing where they could operate safely.

“We’ve had so much growth out here, people don’t know where to go,” he said. Part of mitigating the risk for responders was accounting for where runways are.

“Planes just don’t stop; they don’t just stop on a dime if somebody pulls out in front of them,” Mr. Plummer said.

The script for the scenario included crews springing into action after the initial call to dispatchers by a passenger in the airport’s terminal. Among the responding crews were the Dexter, Brownville, Glen Park and Sackets Harbor fire departments, Guilfoyle Ambulance and a Lifenet helicopter. The crash victims were portrayed by local Boy Scouts, paramedic class students and other community members.

The Federal Aviation Administration mandates that larger-scale drills like the one on Saturday take place at the airport every three years, Mr. Plummer said.

He said the the skills learned during the drill are applicable to a wide range of circumstances.

“When we do these drills, we’re not drilling just only the situation of this plane crash, but we’re also drilling other things that we can utilize for other events, such as the triage for the EMS folks,” Mr. Plummer said. “There’s a lot of times these drills actually intertwine into everyday events that happen.”

A similar situation happened in February 2010, Mr. Plummer said, when a Cape Air nine-seat Cessna slid off the runway on landing. No injuries were reported among the aircraft’s six passengers.

Saturday’s drill also brought out a number of county legislators and newly hired airport manager Grant W. Sussey, who starts work on Wednesday. The new manager said he liked what he saw from the responders during the drill.

Video from Saturday’s drill can be found at

Crash drill at Watertown International Airport
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