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Firefighting apparatus is seen at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. The airport is planning a training drill for first responders.

GARY — First responders will test their plans to deal with an emergency at the Gary/Chicago International Airport later this month when they perform their federally mandated triennial mass casualty exercise.

Gary Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Terry briefed members of the Airport Authority at their Friday meeting on the June 21 exercise, which will involve a simulated accident involving a helicopter and airplane.

"We've been working on this five or six months," Terry said, "planning the scenario and getting this together."

The scenario will involve a Blackhawk helicopter with engine failure. As it drops in a hard landing, its still-spinning rotors hit the top of a taxiing airplane, sending shrapnel flying.

The shrapnel will injure workers and puncture a fuel truck in the simulation. Terry said 40 people will act as injured subjects, including people on the airplane and in the helicopter.

The simulation will also include a hazardous materials spill from the fuel truck.

First responders will practice securing the scene, perform triage evaluations and treat the victims, contain and clean the fuel and perform other emergency operations.

Terry described it as "a no-fault learning environment."

"We're going to stress our first responders, but not place blame" for mistakes, he said. "It's to make us better, to make our system better."

The drill itself will take about three hours, he said. The Indiana National Guard unit based at the airport will also participate.

Terry said the airport will remain operational during the exercise.

Also at Friday's meeting, the authority approved the purchase of two snow brooms at a cost of $1.2 million, renewed a contract with marketing and public relations firm Resolute Consulting for one year at $7,500 per month, and renewed its lease agreement with the National Guard at a rate of $52,000 per year for three years, with options for three additional years.


Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.