Ready: Airport links injured tsunami victims with area hospitals during disaster scenario exercise

As the main ramp of the C-17 Globemaster touched the tarmac at Boeing Field, crews of three and four medical personnel rushed gurneys onto the airfield.

One by one, the victims were taken out of the aircraft and transported inside the Airport’s Arrivals building, where crews checked their vitals and eventually whisked away the injured to waiting ambulances.

July 12, 2018 - As part of a fictional disaster exercise scenario, a C-17 Globemaster carrying victims of a tsunami touches down at King County International Airport-Boeing Field.

King County photo by Cameron Satterfield

The July 12 exercise might have involved a fictional scenario – a Patient Reception Area (PRA) exercise that King County International Airport/Boeing Field is required to maintain its status as part of the federal government’s National Disaster Medical System – but the urgency exhibited by actors and role players was the real deal.

Nearly two dozen local, state, federal, and private organizations, led by Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, worked together since last year to plan the exercise – which centered on a fictional tsunami hitting the Hawaiian Islands.

July 12, 2018 - As part of a fictional disaster exercise scenario, Military personnel and emergency responders carry a tsunami victim from a C-17 Globemaster to inside the Arrivals building at King County International Airport-Boeing Field.

King County photo by Cameron Satterfield.

July 12, 2018 - As part of a fictional disaster exercise scenario, a victim clings to a teddy bear while being transferred from a C-17 Globemaster to inside the Arrivals building at King County International Airport-Boeing Field

King County photo by Cameron Satterfield

After military and other emergency response crews conducted a similar natural disaster exercise two days prior in the Pacific, the U.S. Air Force evacuated the injured and flew them to the Northwest. By the time they touched down at Boeing Field, crews were ready to meet them.

Inside the Arrivals building, military personnel set up triage areas where victims could be evaluated. There were even role-playing support dogs – courtesy of Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) – in the event that anyone who was injured required a service or support animal.

July 12, 2018 - As part of a fictional disaster exercise scenario, Military personnel and emergency responders carry a tsunami victim from a C-17 Globemaster to inside the Arrivals building at King County International Airport-Boeing Field.

King County photo by Cameron Satterfield

July 12, 2018 - As part of a fictional disaster exercise scenario, military personnel examine a service dog who serves one of the tsunami victims at King County International Airport-Boeing Field.

King County photo by Cameron Satterfield

Once evaluated, the victims were placed in ambulances and taken to area hospitals, which also participated in the exercise. Officials say the Puget Sound is one of a handful of regions along the West Coast with the medical facilities and capacity to provide support during an actual natural disaster or emergency.

In addition to the military and the Airport, there were several other emergency response organizations involved:

  • Washington State Department of Health
  • Northwest Healthcare Response Network
  • Public Health Seattle & King County
  • Western Washington Medical Services
  • AMR
  • Seattle Fire Department
  • American Red Cross
  • USO
  • Washington National Guard
  • Disaster Medicine Project

While organizers will spend plenty of time over the next few weeks evaluating the July 12 exercise in detail, early indications point to KCIA/Boeing Field being well-positioned – literally and operationally – to help victims during an emergency.

July 12, 2018 - As part of a fictional disaster exercise scenario, military personnel and emergency responders wait to transport a tsunami victim from a C-17 Globemaster to inside the Arrivals building at King County International Airport-Boeing Field.

King County photo by Cameron Satterfield