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Presque Isle International Airport to conduct mock disaster response drill

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Presque Isle International Airport will partner with numerous community organizations to conduct a mock disaster drill on Saturday, Aug. 11, that aims to prepare airport staff and emergency responders on the best ways to assist individuals and save lives during a potential disaster.

In partnership with the Presque Isle Fire Department, Aroostook County Emergency Management, The Aroostook Medical Center, Transportation Security Administration, the American Red Cross and the City of Presque Isle, the airport will stage a fake crash on the airport grounds. Volunteers will act as injured and deceased victims while others will play the roles of family members searching for their loved ones.

The disaster drill is expected to begin at 8 a.m. and end around 1 p.m. Emergency personnel will be present at the airport from the beginning of the drill, but will wait to “respond” until at least 15 minutes later to mimic the time it would take for them to arrive at the airport if such an emergency were to occur.

Presque Isle International Airport is required by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a mock disaster drill every two years to test their emergency response plans firsthand and note potential weaknesses or areas of improvement, according to Darren Woods, director of Aroostook County Emergency Management.

“In order to really test out those plans, we have to go through the motions of that type of emergency,” Woods said. “We hope to figure out what areas of the plans need to be adjusted or improved, both for the airport and the city.”

The disaster drill will not interfere with regularly scheduled flights from Presque Isle International Airport to Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, which will depart Presque Isle at 6 a.m. that Saturday and return around midnight.

During the drill, a press room will be set up at the airport’s crash and fire rescue building, where public information officers from the city, airport and TAMC will be on hand to give media officials updates regarding the “disaster,” as they would during a real-life emergency. Representatives from the media will only be allowed to take photos or video footage outside the parameters set by the fire department.

Woods advises members of the public to avoid the airport during the hours in which the disaster drill will take place and to not be concerned if they see a large amount of emergency vehicles heading to the airport that morning.

“People should expect to see an increased presence of emergency responders in the area near the airport that morning but should also be aware that this will be just a drill, not an actual emergency,” Woods said.

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