Weather Forecast


A crash course in emergency response

During Monday’s drill, Alexandria firefighters doused the flames from a staged plane crash while other firemen prepared to go inside the fuselage and rescue trapped “passengers.” Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff1 / 3
Firefighters helped “victims” from a plane crash during Monday night’s drill at the Alexandria Airport. Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff2 / 3
Rescue personnel treated a “victim” who was injured when a truck carrying Roundup crashed into a fence. The drill took place near the Alexandria Airport. Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff3 / 3

The scenario was chilling: A plane crashes at the Alexandria Airport, bursting into a fireball of flames and smoke as trapped passengers scream for help.

Then, minutes after firefighters and emergency response units arrive on scene, another disaster strikes: A truck carrying Roundup careens out of control on Aga Drive, hitting two people walking on the road before it crashes into an airport fence and spills the herbicide. Five young people from the nearby skatepark rush over to help but become contaminated by chemicals and have to be sprayed down by firefighters.

In all, 21 patients need immediate medical attention.

The scene looked amazingly real, with a full-scale jet fuselage shooting flames, smoke, screams, dazed victims with bloody wounds. But it was all staged to help local emergency response units sharpen their skills if a version of such a scenario ever takes place here.

Monday night's drill was a full-scale training exercise involving fire departments from Alexandria, Forada and Osakis, first responders, Alexandria Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, North Ambulance, the Douglas County Sheriff's Posse and the Douglas County Hospital.

The training actually began on Sunday when area fire departments practiced rescuing people, actually dummies, from a jet simulator that was positioned at the airport.

The drills were designed to maintain and improve the overall emergency readiness level of Douglas County and participating agencies. Fire Marshal Dennis Stark said that they plan to document the entire exercise and meet for a tabletop discussion on how everything went.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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