FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – What may look like a real disaster unfolding at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was really just a training drill.

Beginning at 10 a.m. rescue crews and emergency response procedures were put to the test with a simulated crash of a jetliner with fifty passengers and crew on board after take off.

The simulated crash site was situated in and around a lake west of the airport located at SW 36 Street and SW 24 Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. A mock-up of a damaged airliner in the form of several rafts was used for the water rescue scenario.

Mike Nonnemacher, Director of Operations for the county’s aviation department, said these types of drills are required by the Federal Aviation Administration every three years, but they do them every 18 months.

“We haven’t done a water rescue in a long time, we really wanted to do a water rescue and test those skills, it’s a multi-agency coordination so that makes it a little more complex,” said Nonnemacher.

The injured passengers are being played by students from Calvary Christian Academy’s High School Drama Team.

More than 100 aviation professionals, fire rescue, emergency medical, and law enforcement personnel from more than 30 agencies and businesses are taking part in the exercise. A number of the ‘injured’ passengers will be transported for ‘medical treatment’, testing the ability of several local hospitals to respond to accidents with multiple victims.

Walt Houghton, a professor at Embry Aeronautical University in Tampa, worked with the Broward County Aviation Department for 20 years before retiring.   He was one of several observers at the drill who will give the department feed back on their performance.

“Basically what this is all about is for all these multi-agencies to get together, know each other on a personal basis, one-on-one first name basis so when it happens at five o’ clock in the morning or at midnight, people know what’s there and what their responsibilities are,” Houghton said.

The drill did not impact travelers arriving at or departing from the airport.


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