Lakeland airport holds mass casualty drill

Image 1 of 5

Lakeland Linder International Airport held a mass casualty drill on Wednesday to put emergency responders and others through their paces so they are ready if the real thing ever happens.

“We do our best to make sure we simulate what our emergency responders would encounter on a real emergency scene,” said Janel Vasallo, spokeswoman for the Lakeland Fire Department.

Ten agencies, including the Lakeland Fire Department and Polk Fire Rescue, took part in the mass casualty exercise. So did dozens of volunteers, many from local high schools, who played the role of victims.

In the drill, a commercial plane goes down upon take-off because of bad weather and pilot error. It crashes into a Stormtracker plane owned by NOAA, which is now based in Lakeland.

“They’re setting up triage. They’re responding to the medical calls, and they’re transporting as far as Lakeland Regional Health, just like they would in a real emergency,” Vasallo explained.

Lakeland Linder holds mock disasters every year, but this was an especially important one. It was more comprehensive and clears the way for the FAA to certify the airport so commercial airlines can land there. The airport is talking to several carriers hoping to land a deal with one.

“It would be huge for our community,” Airport Operations Coordinator Adam Lunn told FOX 13.