LAKELAND, Fla. - More than 250 people helped first responders in Polk County prepare for the unthinkable: a commercial plane crash.
The city spent nine months planning the fake disaster.
To make it look as real as possible, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport brought in students from a nearby school to play the role of injured passengers.
The students were covered in fake blood, and many looked like they were missing arms or legs.
"We try to be as realistic as possible, that's why we do these things," said Pete McNally, Director of Emergency Management in Polk County.
Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, and other commercial airports that size, are required to run these training exercises every three years.
In this scenario, the make-believe plane crashed short of the runway. More than 120 people were on board.
First responders were told that the plane split in half. The airport set up a bus on its side to represent the main fuselage and used a smaller bus to represent the cockpit.
The training is not only good practice for emergency personnel, but it also provides serious lessons.
Each time Lakeland runs the exercise, one of the biggest lessons is communication.
"We’re finding that we still have bits and pieces out there that don’t have the frequencies or channels they need on their radios. So that was again, as it was last time, communications was an issue," said John Maddox, Battalion Chief for the City of Lakeland.
The training scenario is by far the preferred place to discover an issue.
One year after the exercise, the crew realized they did not have an effective way during a disaster to re-fill the special foam to put out fires. The later fixed it.
"Everybody is going to get together and find out what went wrong, what went right, and what we need to approve on," Maddox said.
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