Hartsfield-Jackson Successfully Tests Emergency Response with Big Bird

Filed in Employees, News by on April 17, 2015

More than 70 airport employees and outside volunteers – in addition to 51 airport first responders — helped make Hartsfield-Jackson’s Big Bird emergency preparedness drill on April 15 a big success.

Taking place for the first time at night, the triennial exercise was held at the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department’s training facility on Lake Mirror Road. But, for the volunteer “victims,” the event began earlier that afternoon at North Cargo, as they received injury makeovers – jagged gashes, burns and even hanging eyeballs – from a team of professional makeup artists.

The Big Bird organizers devised a highly complex scenario involving an aircraft fire, simulated injuries and crowd control. After the flaming plane was extinguished by airport firefighters, ATL rescue personnel moved on to the crashed-plane scenario to aid survivors and victims. Another 30 emergency personnel also took part from other agencies, including the City of Atlanta, Grady Hospital, Clayton County and the cities of College Park and Riverdale.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires airports to conduct full-scale emergency-preparedness drills at least once every three years, in addition to smaller, annual drills.

“The safety and security of our customers is the Airport’s top priority and we conduct drills every year to ensure our emergency preparedness,” said Miguel Southwell, Aviation General Manager, who watched the simulation from the sidelines. “Big Bird is a large-scale drill that allows the Airport’s emergency responders, staff and other agencies an opportunity to practice and evaluate their responses to an emergency situation.”

By all accounts, this year’s Big Bird ran smoothly – and was relatively dry, with the rain holding off throughout.

“This drill provides a snapshot of the Airport’s resources and abilities in responding to a major incident,” said AFDR Battalion Chief Michael Winfrey. “We’re judged by FAA inspectors on our response times, triage capabilities and our ability to coordinate with outside mutual aid services. I am greatly satisfied with our performance at last night’s exercise.”

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