YOMITAN VILLAGE, Okinawa — A Boeing 717 aircraft crashes in a parking lot, scattering survivors while pinning others inside the plane. Chemical fires rage from the engine remnants, spreading yellow smoke.

With a major international banking conference and several private jets arriving next month, the Nirai Fire Department prepared for such an emergency Thursday. They invited the Kadena Air Base and Camp Butler Fire Departments to a simulation where the departments concentrated on overcoming the language barrier and providing support during major disasters.

“We’re here to learn about more effective response measures and techniques,” said Nirai Fire Chief Jun Kiyokawa. “And with the current events in the world as they are, we also have to be prepared for a terrorist attack from biological or chemical weapons.”

Partially because of that threat, five of the victims suffered simulated chemical wounds and were treated by an on-site hazmat team.

Kiyokawa also cited the August incident when a Marine helicopter crashed on Okinawa International University’s grounds as proof his department always should be ready for an aircraft accident.

The biggest challenge for Master Sgt. Gene Rausch, Kadena’s fire chief, was communication between the Okinawan and base command posts. As word of 30 dead and wounded came in from the Nirai radio frequencies, a Japanese-speaking firefighter translated for the Kadena command. During the accident, Rausch kept a checklist of each step taken from truck dispatch to hospital transportation.

Communication at the scene is actually far less complicated, Rausch said.

The American and Okinawan fighters both follow similar procedures to put the fire out and evacuate the wounded, so pointing and gesturing goes a long way, he said.

“The only other thing they need to be told is where the triage is at, and the Okinawans know what that means,” Rausch said.

The simulation also brought up questions in Rausch’s mind. For example, Kadena can convene an aircraft investigation board after an accident. Rausch said he wants to know whether the Japanese would want such assistance, or would rather turn over the full investigation to mainland authorities.

Observers at the simulation included local politicians, Torii Station fire officials and Navy hospital corpsmen.

Seaman Joseph Smith said he was impressed with the smooth flow of wounded into the triage area, where victims were separated on different color tarps. Once at the triage area, supposed victims were assigned to one of five different local hospitals, including the U.S. Naval Hospital.

“I worked for a fire department before joining the Navy and we did some simulations, but they weren’t this well-coordinated,” Smith said.

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