First responders rescue victims during the Dulles emergency exercise in May. Photo courtesy of MWAA First responders rescue victims during the Dulles emergency exercise in May. (MWAA)

A plane on fire, a Potomac River rescue, distraught passengers flooding the terminal. On Saturday, Reagan National Airport will be the scene of an emergency exercise designed to test the readiness of airport personnel and first responders from more than 13 agencies

The exercise is required every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration. Washington Dulles International Airport held a similar exercise in May. The event takes months of planning.

Community members, who volunteer to be “patients” are made up by professional moulage artists. These folks are experts in simulating protruding bones and bloody wounds. As someone who was at Dulles in May, I can attest to the realness and stomach turning impact of the injuries.

But the day also offers first responders the chance to work with emergency equipment and try out new techniques for transporting and tracking patients during a mass casualty event. As Tom Kenney, a deputy fire chief with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, told me in May, it’s a dress rehearsal for a tragedy they hope they’ll never have to respond to. But as Monday’s events at the Washington Navy Yard remind us, tragedy is never far away.

"Patient" rescues during the Dulles emergency exercise in May. Photo courtesy of MWAA. “Patient” rescues during the Dulles emergency exercise in May.  (MWAA)

Airport officials are trying to get the word out to the public, who may be alarmed to see multiple firetrucks, ambulances, helicopters and other emergency vehicles in and around Reagan National.  The exercise will take place between approximately 8:30 a.m. and noon.