FOX13 Investigates: Airport Emergencies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Are MEM first responders ready for an emergency?

A FOX13 investigation looks at how safe travelers are during an emergency at the Memphis International Airport.  A new report obtained by FOX13 shows there's area for improvement.

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Late last year, three accidents caught the attention of the country.

An American Airlines plane caught fire in Chicago.  Then V.P. candidate Mike Pence's plane slid off of Laguardia's runway.

And less than 24 hours later, the landing gear collapsed on a FedEx plane in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  “Those real life incidents are the exact reason why we do those exercises” says airport spokesperson, Glen Thomas.

Thomas was involved in the most recent emergency drill, back in August.

Think of it as a fire drill for adults.  They simulated a plane crash, killing some passengers and injuring others.

“We feel that we're prepared to handle a variety of situations” says Thomas.

The drill simulates organized chaos, quickly, the unthinkable must become fixable.

Previously, law enforcement took first responders to the disaster scene.

But new this year, maintenance employees took over that task, freeing up officers.

Thomas says that was an area of improvement adding “that worked very well coming it. Leaving the airfield there was some confusion with the vehicles departing.

It wasn't a major problem but it's something that we need to address and it's something we're looking at.”  The report is generated by airport officials.

The FAA requires they do it every three years but does not require a copy of the report.

“We utilize that for future planning but it's mainly an internal document,” Thomas said.

Thomas says the report was filled with good things first responders did that if it was a real emergency would have kept others on the property safe.

“You know that there's going to have to be some adaptability within that situation but it gives you a blue print for how to respond to these types of situations,” Thomas said.

Airport officials are considering doing a drill every two years.