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Emergency drill set for Westmoreland's Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

To volunteer

Anyone interested in volunteering for the drill, scheduled for 6 p.m. May 29, can fill out a form to sign up at Parental permission is required for anyone youger than 18.

For more information, call 724-539-8100.

Sunday, May 11, 2014, 11:22 p.m.

Every day emergency service agencies throughout Westmoreland County stand ready to put out airplane fires and treat victims of a car crash, but on May 29 their skills will get sharpened during a drill at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

The 6 p.m. event in Unity, required by the Federal Aviation Administration every three years, will involve about 300 people and more than a dozen local agencies, said Moe Haas, public safety director at the airport.

Using a training device from Michigan that is designed to mimic an airplane, emergency responders, the American Red Cross, law enforcement, Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety, hospitals and the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office will respond to various scenarios to test disaster plans, Haas said.

“They can give us all the scenarios like cabin fires, cockpit fires, engine fires,” he said. “We get all set up and the tower will simulate calling the alert.”

About 100 volunteers have signed up to participate.

Warned that they could get wet or dirty, some will act as wounded or dead passengers on the airfield; others will be assigned as family members awaiting information in the terminal. They'll receive refreshments and a T-shirt for their time, Haas said.

Previous drills have been held on Saturdays, but a weekday evening was chosen to better accommodate schedules, Haas said. Passersby may notice activity until about 11 p.m. that night on the airfield, but emergency vehicles will be on standby earlier at the scene, he said.

The drill serves to strengthen working relationships, said Dan Stevens, the county's deputy emergency management coordinator.

“We want to make sure the first responders in the county, along with the airport fire department, know how each other works,” he said.

Scott Graham, captain of special operations with Mutual Aid Ambulance Service, said events with a large number of patients are not common, so a drill like this allows crews to practice assessing and treating patients efficiently.

Greensburg-based Mutual Aid will use a Medical Evacuation and Rehab Vehicle from Lower Kiski Emergency Services for the drill. The size of a bus, the vehicle can carry multiple patients on stretchers at once, Graham explained.

“The primary challenge is not moving the disaster from point A to point B,” he said, as well as determining which hospitals would be best for treatment of burns, trauma or other wounds.

Haas said the drill and emergency plans often are effective, but leaders of each agency will meet afterward for a “hogwash” to review any changes necessary or room for improvement.

“We've done a little tweaking throughout the years, and they've become better and better,” he said. “It's always a work in progress.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or




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