A field at Washington Dulles International Airport will look like the remains of an airplane crash Saturday. The site will be littered with bodies while rescue workers and firefighters provide aid. Ambulances will take the "injured" to nearby hospitals.
The scene will be an emergency preparedness drill required by the Federal Aviation Administration, said Tom Sullivan, assistant manager for media relations for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
It is one of many approaches underway in Loudoun to prepare for natural disasters and terrorists attacks.
The drill will test the skills of airport and regional emergency responders. "We'll call on mutual aid support from Loudoun and Fairfax Counties," Sullivan said. "We're working with the American Red Cross. They will supply 200 volunteers portraying accident victims."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies will be acting out a separate scenario at the same site. "They will be conducting their own drill of investigating the potential of a terrorist activity being involved," he said.
The exercise is similar to others in the past that dealt with the threat of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters. Sullivan said the difference is that additional coordination is needed with federal and local agencies regarding both emergency and security response.
LOUDOUN LAW ENFORCEMENT has acquired new equipment and participated in additional training to better handle disasters. Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, said deputies already had been trained in handling hazardous materials. The Incident Command Center (ICC) establishes a standardized chain of command that increases efficiency during emergencies.
"(Emergency preparedness) has changed in the aspect that before, it was a chemical spill from a truck, or a building may have had a fire that dealt with chemicals," Troxell said. "Now it's more of a criminal investigation. We're using some of the same resources, and we're bringing in investigative resources for terrorists."
The Sheriff's Department has bought gas masks, chemical and biological protective equipment and received training on the proper use of it, he said. "There's also been an emphasis on working together with other emergency responders and knowing each others capabilities," he said.
Loudoun County Fire and Rescue also has acquired additional equipment and training. Acting Chief Jack Brown said the county is in the process of buying personal protective gear such as coats, hats, helmets and boots.
The Loudoun Office of Emergency Management has initiated the Medical Reserve Corps and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to prepare for future emergencies.
THE MEDICAL RESERVE Corps enlisted its 250th volunteer last week. The purpose of the corps is to help staff mass medication-dispensing sites in the event of a widespread outbreak of disease, either naturally occurring or due to a terrorist attack. It also provides CPR and first-aid training.
Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Health Department, said the volunteers include doctors, homemakers, students and retirees. More volunteers are needed.
A Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has been formed in Lucketts and another is being organized in Cascades. The Lucketts team of 16 volunteers completed 32 hours of training and successfully participated in a mock disaster drill in April. They responded to a real disaster in the fall when Hurricane Isabelle struck.
"There were trees down in my road and I was climbing over and under them through the water to rendezvous with the rest of the team," recalled Darrell Ernst of Lucketts.
The team was prepared, because of the training provided by the Loudoun Office of Emergency Management, he said. "Let me remind you that the CERT is volunteers, made up of private citizens. We are not professionals," he said. "We hold down the fort. We can provide that backup when supplies are needed, when help is needed at the shelter or when someone says, 'We need more bandages.'"
The team's most important responsibility, however, is to help family first, then the neighborhood and community. "We learned to take care of our families first," Ernst said. "If you don't, you won't be effective out there."
TOM COOKE, a homeowner in the Cascades neighborhood of Sterling, has spearheaded the effort to the build a Community Emergency Response Team. "It's nice to have a home grown team, where we know how to take care of ourselves," he said. "The team will be able to educate the community, and as Loudoun County continues to grow, it will help with the burdens on our fire, rescue and police."
He is recruiting more volunteers before the training begins.
Kevin Johnson, deputy coordinator of Emergency Management, said the response team is trained in many procedures including the ability to create family disaster supply kits, develop family disaster plans, use fire extinguishers properly, and understand disaster psychology. "We identify the steps to relieve stress and how to identify those around them who may be affected by the emergency," he said.
He encourages more communities to form teams with eight to 24 volunteers. "It's a resource we can bring from one community to another," he said. "A lot of the programs in the CERT concept can be used more often than in a large scale emergencies, such as CPR, First Aid and using the fire extinguisher."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established the team to plan and prepare for earthquakes in California. Loudoun modified it.
"This program is designed to provide the citizens the opportunity to be better prepared to face all hazards," Johnson said. "And it's important for folks to have an understanding of what emergencies they might face and how best to deal with those."
Johnson also encourages county residents to buy a NOAA Weather radio, which are available at electronic stores and on the Web. The radio will activate and provide information in times of weather-related emergencies.
AREA CHURCHES also are gearing up for the disasters. The Sterling United Methodist Church, for example, has established a committee to do disaster planning. Dorothy Erickson, who heads the committee, said the church asked for volunteers who have dry wall, electrician, plumbing and carpentry skills and who could commit to helping in an emergency. The committee also inventoried the church building to see if it was appropriate to serve as a shelter. In addition, it considered setting up an emergency contact system should the electricity go out. That plan has been challenging for a congregation of 600 members, she added.
"My personal inclination is: Try to emphasize that people should be prepared," she said. "Everyone realizes, especially in this area, there could be a biological, radiological or chemical attack, a disruption of our water supply or the power grid.
"I emphasize self-preparation, motivating people to address something they don't really have to do, even with their busy lives."