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      Sawyer International Airport tests emergency response

      Emergency crews at Sawyer International Airport raced down the tarmac Saturday morning, responding to a mock accident.

      In the scenario, a plane struck a flock of geese on descent, causing the aircraft to lose control on the runway and burst into flames. Sawyer firefighters arrived on the scene first and immediately started hosing down the MarqTran bus, which served as the fuselage.

      "We cannot do it all on our own; we depend on the local community for support," said Rob Cochran, Sawyer Fire Chief.

      With the lives of eight victims at stake, a potentially high-casualty incident requires a collaborative effort. Several local agencies participated in the simulation including Forsyth and Sands Township fire crews, as well as Marquette General and MediRide.

      "We want to make sure everybody is prepared in case something happens so we know who we're dealing with, we place a name with a face, we work together and we're comfortable working with each other," explained Teresa Schwalbach, Emergency Management Coordinator for Marquette County.

      Because communication is so critical, the Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial airports, like Sawyer, to conduct these full-scale emergency scenarios every three years.

      Once the airport compiles a report from Saturday's training session, the FAA will review the results.

      A plane crash remains highly unlikely, but when seconds mean the difference between life and death, it never hurts to be be prepared.

      "Things can get chaotic and confusing really fast in an emergency incident," Cochran said. "The more we practice, the more we practice our communication and coordination efforts, if the real thing were to happen, which we hope it would never, we'll be ready."