RALEIGH, N.C. — Local emergency crews tested their response skills Saturday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Although it was just a drill, it offered an important way to find out how well the crews can handle a terrorist attack.
"It gets our mind in the right state, so we know what we're looking for," said Capt. Charlie Ivey, of the Morrisville Fire Department.
In Saturday's hypothetical practice scenario, a dirty bomb went off at the Charlotte Coliseum. Hospitals there ran out of room, and a National Guard plane brought victims into RDU.
Rescue crews at RDU had to get victims off the plane, set up a triage at the airport and get them to local hospitals.
About 15 different agencies joined in Saturday's exercise. For many, it was their first chance to practice this kind of joint emergency response.
"It's something that doesn't happen every day, so you can't train on it but every so often," Ivey said. "But it brings different groups to a big scene, and it's real important that they be able to work together and understand what's going on."
The idea Saturday was to practice a master plan to handle mass casualties. The exercise was part of qualifying for the National Disaster Medical System.
"You can find out certain weaknesses," said Dr. Brian Quigley, of Rex Emergency Response Team. "Usually, issues with communication come up."
After Sept. 11, there was a new push to get all local and federal agncies on the same page to avoid any confusion in a disaster. First responders said it seems to be working.
"I think it's much more organized," Quigley said. "Basically, we had a lot of people doing their own systems."
Said Ivey: "I see a difference everywhere, not just in Wake County. All the counties come together. There is more communications, more up-to-date information, quicker information coming out to us, too."
Furthermore, crew said being ready to handle such a large disaster is now just part of being a local responder.