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Civil Air Patrol Unit Assists During Disaster Drill At RDU

RDU SkyDrill
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RDU SkyDrill-Jet Blue Embraer 190
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Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron Members Play Victims At Plane Crash


The Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) was the scene of a large scale disaster preparation drill on Saturday March 13th. Operation SkyDrill began under heavy fog and low ceilings at about 6:30 a.m. when volunteer “victims” began signing in at the airport maintenance facility. Seven cadets and three senior members from Raleigh-Wake, all dressed in civilian attire began preparations for their various roles. According to Maj. Tim Tessin, Unit Commander, nine unit members reported to the victim staging area while one member was assigned to serve as a member of the media and reported to the Airport Authority Headquarters.

Mindy Hamlin, Public Information Director for the Authority, was in overall charge of the drill. At the maintenance facility, very highly skilled makeup artists began the task of simulating wounds on the victims.

Volunteers serving as members of the media were briefed by airport authority personnel at 9:00 a.m. Media members had been issued cell phones and were directed to start calling Hamlin and her assistant, Andrew Sawyer as soon as the inbound pilot declared an emergency and stage two was activated. The idea was to see if the media (actors) could in fact, overwhelm the authority staff—just as in a real incident.

The scenario began to unfold shortly after the briefing. A Jet Blue Embaer 190, Flight No. 9099 from JFK to RDU had reported hydraulic problems. This triggers the first stage of alert at the airport. The Command center then activates the mutual aid compact with surrounding municipalities. Police, fire and EMS crews begin heading for the airport.

Stage two followed shortly when fire rescue units at RDU move to the runway where the aircraft in distress is expected to land (Runway 23Right). A stage three alert signifies that a crash has occurred.

The scenario called for 109 souls on board the Jet Blue Aircraft,

Hamlin said that the authority is now required to run a drill like this at least every two years. She commended the media volunteers for really putting the pressure on. “We learned the value of following a checklist,” she said.

Maj. Tessin commended his volunteers once they were scooped up from the ramp. He noted that a new member to the unit, Don Ryan provided the smoke generators used to simulate the aircraft fire,

Tessin said his role was to play the part of a worried commanded who came to the airport expecting to pickup seven cadets and a senior member returning from an encampment. “For better or worse, instant messaging and ‘online’ information services via personal communication devices are changing the way information is handled in an emergency.  The airlines and other emergency response personnel will need to deal with family/media/etc. that may have more information than they have,” Tessin said.

CAP members participating were Cadets: Cadet Ryan Almich, Cadet Tyler Emerson, C/SSgt. Matt Lowery, C/SSgt. Peter Soares, C/SSgt. Michael Sowell, C/Capt. Stephen Coogan and C/Capt. Kyle Zobel.

Seniors included: Maj. Tim Tessin, Capt. Don Penven, and SM Kathy Hegele. It should be noted that newly certified CAP member, Don Ryan, was on hand in a non-CAP capacity. His company provides smoke generators, which were used to add a degree of realism to the drill.

The Raleigh-Wake Unit is based at RDU and its headquarters is located in the General Aviation Terminal.

Photos Courtesy of Herbert I. Battle, RDU Law Enforcement

Additional photos at: