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Multi-agency exercise at airport readies Midlands for worst-case scenario today

COLUMBIA - Nearly 200 personnel from local, state and military agencies as well as 23 regional hospitals and healthcare systems will participate in a large-scale mock disaster drill today at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport designed to challenge and improve their response capabilities.

The US Department of Defense's Federal Coordination Center and the South Carolina Forestry Commission's Incident Management Team are leading the exercise, which will simulate the reception, triage and tracking of injured and evacuated people from a mock disaster.

The exercise is being conducted under the auspices of the National Disaster Medical System, which assists in the coordination of governmental, non-profit and medical emergency resources into a unified response to natural disasters, major transportation accidents, technological catastrophes and acts of domestic terrorism. In an actual disaster, the NDMS is activated if an incident is so large that it would overwhelm local agencies’ ability to respond with sufficient medical aid.

The scenario will begin with an unspecified catastrophe striking a distant location from which people will be flown to Columbia for distribution to area medical facilities for further treatment. Simulated casualties will arrive at the SC Aeronautics Commission hangar in two medical transport military aircraft. During NDMS exercises, all attempts are made to keep the situation authentic; thus, inbound flights will arrive at unspecified times and carry an unknown number of “wounded.”

While the casualties are "pretend," responding personnel, inbound flights, medical transport logistics, performance expectations, and security procedures are not. The South Carolina Forestry Commission’s Incident Management Team is working with law enforcement and the SC State Guard to prioritize safety and security.

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