Simulated plane on fire at DIA

Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport

First responders raced to extinguish a plane on fire and resuscitate victims at Denver International Airport last week. Luckily, everyone walked away unharmed — except for 75 medical dummies.

The exercise was part of an emergency response drill, which the Federal Aviation Administration requires every three years. This year, DIA simulated a crash following takeoff, which used a 75-foot “live-fire training simulator” in the shape of an airplane, a handful of actors as passengers and the dummies. 

“The fullscale exercise is the most comprehensive test and is intended to evaluate the operational capability of the emergency management system in a stress environment with actual mobilization and deployment to demonstrate coordination and response capability,” the FAA guidelines read. “It uses all resources and requires reaction from equipment and personnel that would normally be available if the exercise were an actual emergency.”

Multiple fire departments, Denver Health, Southwest Airlines, Denver medical examiners and federal agencies participated in the drill. The state and city health departments worked with the airport to implement COVID-19 precautions for those involved.

DIA also uses smaller tabletop exercises during the year to review response and recovery plans. The FAA does not mandate a format for the triennial drill, but provides detailed protocols for airport operators.

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