Safety top of mind at Sun 'n Fun Fly-in

Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 18:38:29-04

This week the Lakeland airport turns into the busiest airport in the world as thousands of planes fly in and out for the annual Sun 'n Fun Fly-In.

This year's event is expected to break attendance records with tens of thousands of spectators coming out to see the hundreds of vendors, exhibits and nightly airships. But that many people means an army of first responders are waiting in the wings.

"We have a plan for just about anything that could happen. When you get 100,000 people together, something is going to occur," said Sgt. Gary Gross, Lakeland Police Department spokesman.

Tucked away in a corner, out of of view, is the mobile command center for law enforcement agencies at Sun 'n Fun. More than 100 different agencies are represented at the annual event.

They're prepared for anything from heat stroke to multiple plane crashes.

"There is weeks and weeks of planning to make this work and pull it off and we do it every year," he said.

All 911 calls related to Sun 'n Fun are routed through the mobile command center.

The extra effort to pull off a safe event extends all the way to the men in orange shirts who arguably have the most crucial job: Air traffic controllers.

Hundreds of extra air traffic control workers fly in from around the country to participate in the event.

Their job is to coordinate the aerial ballet, clearing people to take off, land, and avoiding serious traffic jams in the sky.

If something does go wrong, first responders are literally a hundred feet away waiting to hop in the truck and go.

"It's really all about everyone working together and being ready," said Paul Womble with Polk County Emergency Management. "We've got all the resources right here on the property to handle certainly the initial response and then if we need outside folks. It's pretty simple."

By far, the best weeks are the ones when the first responders don't ever turn a wheel -- and don't respond to a single incident.

The Sun 'N Fun fly-in runs through Sunday.