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Mass casualty incident exercise set this Saturday, May 12, at Fenn

EMS personnel training to make community ‘safe as we can’

EMS participants and a volunteer victim pictured at a June 2013 mass casualty incident exercise held in Cottonwood.

Photo by David Rauzi
EMS participants and a volunteer victim pictured at a June 2013 mass casualty incident exercise held in Cottonwood.



— While you’re taking this weekend to mow the lawn or get out and enjoy a spring day, some of your neighbors will be wrist-deep in carnage, blood and chaos.

Well, at least pretend blood, anyway.

Participants

Participants in the Saturday, May 12, mass casualty incident exercise at Fenn are as follows:

St. Mary’s Hospital and Clinics

St. Mary’s Hospital Ambulance

Cottonwood Fire District

Cottonwood Police Department

Syringa Hospital and Clinics

Syringa Hospital Ambulance

Grangeville Health and Rehab

Grangeville Fire District

Grangeville Police Department

Idaho County Dispatcher

Idaho State Police

Idaho County Sheriff’s Office

Idaho County Emergency Management

Life Flight

Davis Communications

Idaho State Comm

Public Health-Idaho North Central District

North Central Information Network (PIO)

Other emergency managers in North Central region assisting as needed.

Latah County- Exercise PIO and Evaluator

Lewis County- Observer and Evaulator

Multiple emergency response agencies – police, fire and medical – from Cottonwood and Grangeville, Idaho County and the state will be participating in a mass casualty incident exercise this Saturday, May 12, at Fenn. Its purpose is training — not just in the nuts and bolts of on-scene emergency extraction and medical care, but in agencies being able to coordinate and cooperate during a crisis that potentially will tax available services to and beyond limit.

“What we’re really looking at here will be two things,” said spokesman Mike Neelon, manager for Latah County Disaster Services.

One is when an incident like this occurs and the fire, police and medical agencies come together, who will be in charge and how that is worked out. That involves a complexity of roles: who handles scene safety? The crash site? Will there be a criminal investigation and who’s in charge? Can you stop traffic and for how long? What happens when you don’t have enough resources?

According to Neelon, the exercise allows players to show where their methods are successful, and where more training may be needed.

The second part is what happens with this incident overall, not just at the scene but through the whole process including transport and on the receiving end.

“What happens when you flood a hospital with a lot of patients,” Neelon said, for example. “If the hospital has an emergency room with only six beds, and one is filled, what happens? Plus, you have what’s already going on with daily life, so you have to work around that.”

So, what’s the plan this weekend?

Preparation begins at 8 a.m. with sign-ins, participant briefings, and also the moulage (special effect makeup simulating wounds) of volunteers who will be scene “victims,” providing additional real-world experience for responders.

“We put them on the scene and scatter them around. We try to make it as realistic as we can…. They will be transporting and dealing with live patients,” Neelon said. The scenario will involve a bus with passengers crashing into a van – carrying residents and staff from Grangeville Health and Rehabilitation — on U.S. Highway 95. Patients will have simulated injuries ranging from critical to the “walking wounded,” and these will be located in vehicles for responders to deal with as they find them. In some situations, such as mechanical extractions, mannequins may be substituted for safety reasons.

The exercise runs in real time. Dispatch will tone out agencies who will respond to the scene as they would in a real emergency; however, for safety, no lights and sirens will be activated, and no fast driving en route.

The exercise starts at 10 a.m., running through noon, after which participants will engage in what’s called a Hotwash — debrief on the exercise, talking on strengths and also areas for improvement.

“We’re doing this for the community so we can make them as safe as we can,” Neelon said, “and to work out and identify problems.”

Organizers recognize this exercise will be visible from the highway, and the calls will go over official radio traffic, and they welcome the public to observe in a safe manner.

“Don’t stop on the highway; be safe,” Neelon said. Pull off into turnouts or into town, and observers are welcome to walk the outskirts – but not inside — of the scene. Neelon will be on scene and available to answer questions about what is going on.

“The more they know what’s going on in their community the better for everyone,” he said, “and it makes everyone’s jobs a little easier…. They’re seeing their people practicing and in action. That’s good for them to know that they’re not just waiting around for their next call – they’re working to do their jobs better.”



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