If it looks like a plane crash, sounds like a plane crash, has emergency responders racing to it like a plane crash then, well, it’s still may not be a plane crash.
The South Carolina State Guard is partnering with area first responders for a field exercise Saturday to simulate a plane crash in rural Chester County. It will run 10 a.m.-5p.m. at Baton Rouge Park, 3182 Pinckney Road, Chester. At least nine agencies -- including Chester County emergency management, rescue, fire and police -- will participate.
Though it’s designed to simulate a crash in a rural area, organizers want to let Chester County area residents know what’s happening ahead of seeing what appears to be a downed airplane or emergency vehicles screaming toward it.
“They may certainly see all of those things,” said PFC Dwellion Howard with the state guard. “There’s going to be other first responders involved, including firefighters and local police.”
Howard said he doesn’t yet know how many participants to expect, but some could come from other parts of the state. The drill is designed to prepare responders for a plane crash scenario anywhere in the state.
Ed Darby, deputy director with the county emergency management office, said there could be up to four people training from his office.
“It might be more than that,” he said.
Darby said the training will also help with other possible disasters.
“They’ve asked us to kind of blend in with them,” Darby said. “We’re going to work with them so they know how we operate, we know how they operate.”
A large loop is designated for the training, reserved in a primitive area with tough terrain at a park on the Broad River.
“It’s a very active national park,” Darby said. “It’s best known for horse trails and equestrian-type events. So there definitely will be park-goers there.”
Air support will be visible from a greater distance. Two flight services will train on how to safely prepare a landing site to load victims for helicopter transport.
“This exercise will allow the state guard to work alongside our county emergency services and better prepare both groups to work as one team in a real-world event,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Wesley Snipes with SCSG.
The state guard formed in 1670 and responds to natural or other disasters in South Carolina. The group works along with the National Guard and law enforcement and is part of the South Carolina Military Department, with one notable distinction from other military or emergency response groups.
“We’re an all-volunteer state force,” Howard said.
Last year alone nearly 1,000 members volunteered more than 90,000 hours working alongside federal, state and local first responders. The group responds to incidents like hurricanes Joaquin, Harvey, Matthew and Florence.