Every three years the Federal Aviation Administration requires a drill to test Portland’s Jetport readiness to deal with an aircraft emergency. Yesterday was the day authorities picked to carry out this important training exercise.
MHN.com participated in the exercise by taking a solitary position at the Maine State Pier and representing a reporter trying to find the truth for its readers. Upon its arrival at the Pier, MHN.com met a man with a heavy English accent who identified himself as an evaluator of the exercise from Homeland Security. That knowledge added a note of gravity to the exercise.
The venerable Salvation Army had set up a coffee and snack van from which it was dispensing to the grateful participants. Meanwhile, EMS Commander Ronaldo Dearth was explaining to all just how the injured patients would be handled once they’d arrived by boat from the plane crash in the Fore River near the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Priority I patients (the sickest) would be placed nearest to the fence awaiting the arrival of ambulances to take them to local hospitals. Priority 2 and priority 3 patients would have been placed farther from the fence – with least ill patients, priority 3, the farthest away from the fence.
The survivors of the crash began arriving at MSP. There were seventy passengers and four crew members aboard the downed plane in the Fore River, represented by a barge. The members of the Portland/So Portland FD dive teams were recruited to participate. Four of them were spotted in the water around the barge. One of those divers while getting out of his dive suit said he’d been in the water for almost an hour, but perhaps much of that time was before the exercise actually started. He wasn’t certain.
The remaining seventy were represented by gray, “inflatible” dummies rather than real people. When they arrived at MSP, they’d already been triaged and wore large cards identifying the extent of their injuries. They were placed accordingly near the fence or otherwise – as they’d been prioritized. The end was coming……
The handsome English man from Homeland Security came over and asked me to start taking photos of the deceased inflatibles. MHN.com told him it was being set up for trouble, but since he’s assured me he’d never worked for BP when living in northern England, I’d do it. Well, the people in charge didn’t like my trying to take photos of the deceased for the internet. When MHN.com protested, he said he didn’t want to, but he would call the police if necessary. MHN.com did not push the matter. MHN.com had no intention nor ever has to be a martyr for anything. The truth – it was an impressive display of teamwork.