Mock disaster drill at downtown KC airport gives metro first-responders chance to self-evaluate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Be prepared. The notable scouting motto also applied to Kansas City's disaster response community, which was put to the test in a full-scale mock drill Wednesday.

Kansas City`s medical emergency community met the would-be challenge at the Charles Wheeler Downtown Airport.

In this made-up scenario, metro first-responders greeted a military C-130 aircraft, which, according to the script, flew in 35 patients who`d been involved in an earthquake in Tennessee, and many of these injured people were said to be experiencing symptoms of radiation sickness.

That big military medical flight actually flew in from a military base in Wisconsin, and the doctors and nurses from the metro examined the patients -- both volunteers, who served as the walking wounded, as well as plastic medical dummies -- and then, routed them to local hospitals for treatment.

Emergency medical techs from the Kansas City Fire Department carried patients from the airplane into one of the airport's garages, which was transformed into a temporary triage center, filled with the noise of a busy hospital emergency room.

Zach Bradley, emergency manager for the Veteran Health Administration, served as coordinator for that drill that involved more than 200 people. Bradley said the likelihood of such a scenario happening is unlikely, but the same plans of attack are used by medical response professionals during tornado and hurricane recovery efforts.

"One of the things we've done here is to establish a joint information system where the public affairs and public information officers from the various participating facilities have come together," Bradley said.

Radiation sickness experts were strong pieces of Wednesday's puzzle. Dr. Ibrahim Ahmed, a bone marrow specialist with Children's Mercy Hospital, explained that patients undergoing bone marrow procedures often display the same symptoms as radiation illness patients would.

"The risk of infection is up top on everything. Anyone who is needing urgent or emergent care for fluids or antibiotics, it's really important to manage it at the right time," Ibrahim told FOX4.

Kansas City's airports were also put to the test during this drill, in which, the chaotic nature of an emergency was portrayed. Joe McBride, a spokesperson for the city's aviation department, said the metro would be a strong destination for a large influx of patients if a nearby catastrophe occurred.

"If there's an emergency somewhere else in the U.S., they can get people pretty quick because of the central location. It's not just location, but to have the backbone and infrastructure that we have here with hospitals and federal agencies that are based here," McBride said Wednesday.

Bradley said if this drill went well, local emergency responders would discover their weakness and places they can improve, and opportunities to prepare are priceless.