The Missoula International Airport will conduct a simulated disaster drill on Thursday to test the readiness of airport emergency personnel, as well as firming up lines of communication with Missoula County first responders.

Deputy Airport Director Brian Ellestad couldn't describe the exact scenario that will be followed on Thursday morning, but did provide some details.

"We're going to have a real-time emergency and how we would respond with our community members," Ellestad said. "Hellgate Elementary 7th and 8th students will be our actors, they'll be our passengers, then we'll have our county and city responders and Missoula Emergency Services, and even Missoula Aging Services."

Ellestad said there will be a fire scenario, as well.

"We'll have a fire that we'll have to put out and make sure that we respond in a timely manner and put it out fast," he said. "We're not releasing the exact times so that we can test actual response times and work through what would be a typical accident."

The airport holds these live drills every three years, and in between, they conduct 'tabletop' exercises.

Ellestad said airport personnel have ample opportunities to put their training into practice.

"We had a general aviation crash a couple of years ago," he said. "We always have airplanes that may come in with problems, but they land without incident. We're always on alert. In fact, our chief of public safety comes in in the middle of the night or in the day and pulls mock drills to make sure that everybody has safety at the top of mind."

The airport last held a live drill on May 31, 2014. In that scenario, emergency crews responded to a plane crash and fire, with Missoula City and Rural Fire Departments, Missoula County Sheriff and City Police along with Missoula Emergency Services. In addition, a helicopter chassis was set ablaze while firefighters responded, and actors who portrayed the injured were treated for various injuries.

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