A simulated runway collision this morning involving two passenger aircraft at Boston Logan International Airport kicked off the world's largest airport-based mass casualty exercise.
Some 400 volunteer "victims", triaged in color-coded t-shirts, were the main players in the exercise which mobilized 60 different agencies including 13 area hospitals, 1,000 emergency personnel, about 50 ambulances, 35 fire vehicles, two helicopters, eight boats, and about 20 buses.
Code-named Operation Ready 2007, the drill was designed to test the emergency response capabilities of the airport, local, state and federal agencies and the ability of those agencies to communicate effectively with each other during a crisis. In addition, the exercise challenged emergency medical teams to transport hundreds of casualties from the airfield to area hospitals and those hospitals to process the victims quickly.
The victims included hundreds of Massachusetts Maritime Academy cadets, Boy Scouts from the Chelmsford's Troop 77, employees from several area health organizations, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. Also involved were the Framingham Auxiliary Police, Robert Half Legal, Fidelity Investments, Northeastern University and CERT - Community Emergency Response Teams. Massport, working with the Massachusetts Office on Disability, placed a special focus on disabled passengers. Rescuers had the task of assisting blind victims accompanied by guide dogs, as well as a mobility-impaired individual. Many of the victim participants spoke a foreign language and the exercise examined how quickly foreign consulates are notified.
"Our first priority is the safety and security of the traveling public," said Thomas J. Kinton, Jr., CEO & Executive Director of Massport. "This drill emphasized the importance of teamwork with a single objective in mind: to save lives."
Objectives of Operation Ready 2007 included:
- Evaluating mass casualty operations, transport capabilities, and surge impacts to area hospitals.
- Reviewing regional traffic plans of law enforcement and state transportation agencies to optimize the flow of emergency vehicles.
- Evaluating the interoperability of public and private emergency operation centers (EOCs), and the interaction of emergency plans of public agencies, corporate partners, hospitals and foreign consulates.
"At Mayor Menino's urging, Boston EMS and other city agencies have made it a priority to test and retest our emergency preparedness plans. This exercise tested our ability to assemble the personnel enabling us to dispatch dozens of ambulances to Logan and safely transport hundreds of people to area hospitals in a short amount of time," said Richard A. Serino, Chief of Department, Boston EMS. "We also tested a new patient tracking system that will be utilized by EMS, hospitals and emergency management partners for a comprehensive patient tracking system ensuring patient accountability and family reunification. Each time we work together with our partners in City, State and Federal agencies as well as private institutions and businesses, we strengthen those relationships to better serve the residents and visitors of Boston."
As part of the drill, Massport's communications department held simulated real-time briefings for journalism students from Boston University's College of Communication and Emerson College.
Federal regulations require large airports to conduct training drills once every three years and Massport tries to hold a drill once a year. The last large scale drill at the airport was Operation Atlas in 2005. In that drill, a terrorist incident on board a commercial airliner was simulated.