Multiple agencies converged on the Missoula airport on Saturday morning, responding to a mock plane crash with a fire, and injuries ranging from minor to critical.

Incident Public Information Officer Forrest Merrill said the agencies, which included The Missoula Office of Emergency Services, airport emergency personnel, Missoula Rural and City Fire, ambulances from Missoula Emergency Services, and both St. Patrick and Community Hospitals, need to rehearse everything from initial response to fire control, to emergency on-scene medical treatment and transport and eventually, to reuniting the injured with family members at the hospitals.

photo by Peter Christian

"We're going to have a controlled fire," Merrill said. "The Helena Regional Aircraft Response Team is here and they're going to set up a fire. Firefighting units will respond as if it's a fire inside of the fuselage. We'll have walking wounded, as well as critical patients just as if a plane had gone down here at the international airport."

Merrill said once the call has gone out in a major disaster such as a plane crash with multiple injuries and fire, help would begin arriving at the scene within minutes.

"All the responders would be here in less than approximately five minutes," Merrill said. "Missoula Rural Fire has a station right across the street, the Missoula airport also has their response team right here on site. The first thing would be to address the fire, then begin patient care and get them out of here to the hospital."

photo by Peter Christian

The victims of the crash were separated as to the severity of their injuries, with those most critical marked with a red ribbon, those less critical with a yellow ribbon, and the injured who were able to walk on their own were marked with green ribbons.

Following the training at the airport, the injured changed roles, and became frantic family members at the hospitals worried about their loved ones. The protocol for reuniting family members is handled by personnel at St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center.

Plane Crash Incident Public Information Officer Forrest Merrill