RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond International Airport tested its full-scale emergency plan by staging a plane crash scenario with local first responders, police and volunteer victims Thursday. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, airports must conduct an emergency exercise every three years. 

With roughly 300 participants, the scene hosted the Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover fire departments, as well as airport operations, police and the emergency operations center. 

The airport started planning the test back in November of 2021. The exercise was based on an aircraft accident in Houston, Texas, in 2021. 

“The scenario has the plane taking off on runway two-zero, failed to take off, crashed through a perimeter fence into the rubber tracks and then caught fire,” said Richmond Airport Fire Chief John Fitzgerald.

Airport firefighters must be on-site within three minutes of being alerted of a crash. First, the firefighters put out a large simulated fuel fire on the ground at the scene. Next, they searched the plane for any victims and pull a handline hose into the aircraft to stop the fire, as well as searched and tended to the victims lying scattered amongst suitcase props, airplane seats, on the taxiway or in the grass. 

The first responders had to help the victims, who were painted with fake blood and protruding body parts, for at least 90 seconds before searching for somebody else in need. Then, after consulting with the coherent victim, they were given a color band — green, yellow, red, or gray. Green signified that they were coherent and could walk; yellow meant they were awake but can’t move, red signaled they were immobile with a high heart rate and severe bleeding and gray was used to show they were deceased. 

“It exercises all of our different functions within the first responder partners, not only for the airport first responders but also for Henrico, the City of Richmond, Hanover, Chesterfield and Richmond Ambulance Authority,” Fitzgerald said.