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Westchester Airport Simulates Major Plane Crash

HARRISON, N.Y. – Emergency responders from various municipalities teamed up Saturday afternoon with workers at the Westchester County Airport to practice for a disastrous plane crash.

Westchester County police spokesperson Kieran O'Leary said the Federal Aviation Administration requires all airports with commercial airlines to perform this drill every three years. O'Leary said Westchester County performs it every two years.

John Cullen, commissioner of emergency services for Westchester County, said the drill simulated a plane crash with 155 "souls" aboard. Cullen said the drill simulates the highest level of catastrophe.

"We're in the middle of a field far from a hospital," Cullen said. "There could be hazards like jet fuel on the runway. Something like this could happen, so we need to ensure that our emergency workers are prepared to help if the need arises."

Volunteers young and old acted as simulated "victims" strewn across the open field after a plane went down. Makeup was applied to make the victims look bloody. White Plains High School junior Brandon Brown even simulated how a person would look if he lost an arm. Brown, a member of the White Plains Explorers program, said he wants to be a firefighter one day, and participating in a drill like this gives him experience.

"You have to know what to do if this was a real plane crash," Brown said. "It's something new for me, and I'm enjoying re-creating the experience."

Sandra Allen, assistant coordinator of the White Plains Explorers, who also played a victim, said the drill teaches the youths what to do in case they have to deal with casualties. Allen, who participated in the drill for the second time, said the drills helped her learn what to do in case of an emergency and not to panic.

New Rochelle High School senior Phelisha Anderson is hoping to become an emergency services worker after high school. Like Brown, she said she volunteered to be a victim for the experience. She said she learned how to look at a disaster as something that can really happen.

"It's just crazy," Anderson said.

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