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Newark Airport Disaster Drill - September 13, 2008

Going to the airport, unless for a vacation, is a chore most of us do not look forward to doing. Giving up a Saturday afternoon and night to do that is even a worst prospect. But, on Saturday, September 13th., several of the Springfield Volunteer First Aid Squad Members did just that, spending several hours participating in a major incident exercise.

This drill simulated a full-scale incident: a jetliner on a working runway, with mass casualties and fatalities on-board. Multiple agencies participated, including those near the airport such as Springfield that would respond immediately to a real emergency and those from elsewhere in the state that would respond in later into an incident, along with Port Authority personnel and over 100 volunteer "patients." At an airport the size of Newark, a full-scale drill is required at least once every twelve months. The scope of the drill is determined by the largest type of aircraft permissible at the airport.

The Springfield Volunteer First Aid Squad participated in several aspects of the exercise including the organization to coordinate large numbers of responders, emergency medical treatment and transportation of victims as well as "rehab" for all those involved.

Rehab is a vital service, providing emergency personnel with immediate medical attention including re-hydration, treatment for smoke inhalation, and the prevention of such life-threatening conditions as heatstroke and heart attack. For example, in 2006, nearly 51% of the firefighters killed in the U.S. died from physical stress and/or over-exertion. Emergency Medical Services agencies providing "rehab" cut this statistic by providing early care and heading off fatal medical conditions.

The Springfield Volunteer First Aid Squad is prepared for this major incident exercise due to the time and training invested in their own Special Operations Group. Along with similar groups in Elizabeth, Roselle Park and Summit, the Springfield Special Operations Group responds to both planned and unplanned events to take care of the responders. The Group is comprised of those volunteer members of the Squad that volunteer for additional training and responsibility. Most of the equipment used by the Group was obtained through a U.S. Homeland Security grant last year.