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Medford airport to host mass casualty drill

Here's a disaster scenario straight out of a summer blockbuster: An aftershock pulses through an airport runway as a commercial flight is about to land. Too late to disengage, the aircraft crashes on the heaving runway, killing multiple passengers and injuring numerous others.

Rogue Valley police and fire agencies will rehearse this scenario, called a "simulated mass casualty incident," in real time at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Medford airport. The airport holds exercises like this every three years so it can stay current with the Federal Aviation Administration's Part 139 certification, required of airports that serve aircraft with more than 30 seats, according to FAA guidelines.

"We will have the same type of roles that you would actually have in that event. We will have wounded, will have deceased," said Medford airport spokeswoman Kim Stearns. "It’s as realistic an environment as we can create."

About 40 volunteers will act as injured and deceased victims.

The drill also will help area fire and law enforcement agencies practice for a large-scale earthquake as part of Cascadia Rising rehearsals occurring across the state "to plan for the real eventuality of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami," according to a news release about the event.

The airport's fire department, Medford Fire-Rescue, Jackson County Fire District 3, Medford police, Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Mercy Flights, Red Cross, Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon and Jackson County Emergency Management also will participate in the drill. Providence Medford Medical Center and Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center will be looped in, too, because a key part of the simulation will include on-site treatment of patients and transport of others to hospitals.

"You honestly cannot put a value on this type of training from the standpoint that you’ve got multiple agencies," said Tom McGowan, Medford Fire-Rescue training battalion chief. "The ability to communicate is always a challenge between multiple organizations."

"It’s always at the forefront of your mind, with the hope that it never actually happens," Stearns said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.