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Emergency crews prepare for disasters with drill at Palm Springs Airport

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If something goes wrong  at the Palm Springs International Airport, first responders have a plan in place. In Wednesday's training exercise they put that plan into action. 

News Channel 3’s Dani Romero takes a closer look at their simulation.

Palm Springs Fire crews are preparing for the worst.

“We have to active quickly," said Captain Nathan Gunkel, Palm Springs Fire.

In this mass casualty drill, the scenario is serious: a plane is on fire at Palm Springs International Airport. 

“Save as much life as possible so whatever they need to do, whether they are going to go straight to rescue or put the fire out whatever they have to do they have to make decisions really quick," said Gunkel.

Airport officials, law enforcement and several different response agencies from the local, state and federal level all gathered on the airport’s grounds which was turned into a makeshift disaster zone. 

“It puts us in a very stressful situation," said Daniel Meier, Deputy Director of Aviation for Palm Springs International Airport. "Mak[ing] sure that all our policies and procedures are up to date, mak[ing] sure our capability to communicate to local entities involved that need to respond aircraft that they are ready to go.” 

The FAA requires the airport to test their emergency plan every three years. The helicopter, fire trucks and emergency crews were ready for the worst case scenario.

Firefighters took several patients out of the plane.Some victims, played by volunteers, were stuck in a black trailer needing medical attention.

“We all had injuries, " said Eli Truman, "I myself had a broken ankle or broken leg really, one of the girls had heart complications, one of the ladies couldn't see cause she had smoke in her eyes.” 

While this training exercise had many moving parts, a spokesperson for Palm Springs Fire said there’s always room for improvement. 

“Communication is always the number one," said Gunkel.

In the two years between now and the next full-scale drill, emergency crews plan to hold tabletop exercises to keep their response plans current.

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Dani Romero

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