Hilton Head Island Airport holds mass casualty emergency drill - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Hilton Head Island Airport holds mass casualty emergency drill

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In the Lowcountry, it's an exercise emergency responders hope they never have to face in real life.

But in the event of a mass casualty situation, they must be prepared. 

Several local, county and state agencies, as well as the military, participated in Tuesday's live drill as part of FAA certification requirements every three years.

Imagine a commercial aircraft carrying passengers is struck by a missile as its landing and collides with a smaller aircraft on the ground. What do you do?

"It was determined that it was a suspected terrorist event and that the scene had become a crime scene," said Larry Yeager, Chief of Operations for the Hilton Head Island Airport.  

The first line of safety and defense will be emergency responders. It starts with Hilton Head Island Airport Fire Department, who puts the call out for help.

Dozens of firefighters, law enforcement and military at all levels respond within minutes to put their knowledge and skills to the test.

"It's a review, a full scale review of what our emergency procedures are," said Yeager.  

Whether it's the Marine Corps Air Station, Sheriff's Office or Beaufort Memorial Hospital, all must work together to ensure efficiency and accuracy.

Yeager and others were taking notes and evaluating their performance as they go.

"We're looking at the firefighting capabilities, how did we all do in that? We look at how we treated and transported the victims, they're just looking at the overall scenario as how we interact with each other," said Joheida Fister, PIO for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire/Rescue.

Every year, the agencies do tabletop exercises, but on the third year, they hold a full scale exercise like this one that takes a lot of pre-planning and communication.

It's this kind of simulated training that could make the difference between life or death if this were to happen for real.

Following Tuesday's exercise, the teams will hold a full debrief to assess their performance.

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