Emergency responders prepare for potential airport disaster

Emergency responders prepare for potential airport disaster

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Emergency personnel in Lowndes County had a better idea Thursday afternoon of how prepared they were to respond to a disaster at Valdosta Regional Airport.

?A special response team cruised down a runway at the airport Thursday morning in one of their tactical vehicles as they responded to a report of a hijacked plane with passengers on board sitting on the runway.

Only the plane was actually a bus being used to simulate a plane and the people on the bus were members of the community who had agreed to play along.

"Today's exercise simulated an incident happenin' at the airport. And really, the purpose of it is to get all the responders together," explained Lowndes County Emergency Management Director Ashley Tye.

Dozens of emergency personnel from Valdosta and Lowndes County took part in the full scale exercise, which is held every three years.

But, even though everyone was staged at the airport and ready to go when the call came out they didn't respond immediately. "We wanna simulate that realism and understand that the first people that get here, their help may be several minutes away," Tye said.

Valdosta Regional Airport Manager Jim Galloway said these exercises send an important message to passengers traveling through the airport. "It gives confidence to the traveling public that this is a safe place to fly out of," Galloway said. "The bad guys are gonna look for a soft underbelly and exercises like this prove that Valdosta's not a soft underbelly."

TSgt. Matthew Dennin is an Airman at Moody and was a passenger on the bus during the drill. He said the experience helped him become more prepared in case Moody is called to help respond to an emergency at the airport in the future.

"It shows us how all the other moving parts are so that way we don't just get tunnel vision and just only know what our own job is," TSgt. Dennin pointed out.

Emergency personnel will spend the next two years conducting table top drills for a different scenario before another full scale exercise is scheduled to be conducted in 2018.

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