LEARNING TO RESCUE IN THE AFTERMATH OF DISASTER

February 12, 2002 12:00 am
Assistant chief Adam Bogner comforts a victim played by a Brookings-Harbor High School drama student during a mass casualty drill. ().
Assistant chief Adam Bogner comforts a victim played by a Brookings-Harbor High School drama student during a mass casualty drill. ().

Firefighters, emergency medical technicians and Brookings police descended on the auditorium of Brookings-Harbor High School Feb. 6 to take care of students involved in a mass casualty disaster.

The disaster was actually a drill sponsored by Cal-Ore Life Flight. In October, the county held a tsunami drill to assess the readiness of agencies in Curry County to respond in the event of a natural disaster.

Joe Gregorio, operations manager of Cal-Ore, decided the company needed to do more training on it, said Tom Abelar, paramedic and organizer of the drill.

Abelar approached the high school drama class and asked if they would like to participate.

They gladly accepted, he said.

The drill simulated a stage collapse with about 22 students. The students wore theatrical make-up depicting blood on their faces and other injuries. Many of the students were under chairs or other pieces of equipment that had fallen on them.

It was supposed to evaluate the reaction of individual agencies, the interaction between agencies and how well they assess and treat different patients, Abelar said.

Agencies responding to the school were the Harbor and Brookings fire departments, Brookings Police Department and Cal-Ore.

Abelar said in a real event, crews from Gold Beach and Port Orford would probably be called on to respond.

The crews that responded to the drill treated each patient as if they were truly injured. Each patient was assessed and carried out to waiting ambulances if necessary.

I was impressed with how the drill went, Abelar said.

He said he didnt see any areas that need to be worked on specifically.

There are just general concept (areas) we need to work on, he said.

Those areas include making sure communications are clear within and between agencies, chain of command and other issues that every disaster brings forward.

Communication is a big thing, working things out within (and between) agencies. (The drill) is a starting point, he said.

Brookings Fire Chief Bill Sharp agrees that it is a starting point.

A lot of the firefighters were newer and hadnt been exposed to the First Aid end of things, he said.

They were wandering around like they didnt know what to do. Thats training we need to do with them as well as having them be aware of the incident command system, he said.

Sharp said he has gotten six new volunteers in the last two weeks. They will be trained in First Aid and disaster response.

We regularly drill with the ambulance on patient assessment, care, extrication, CPR and First Aid. New people havent been exposed to that yet.

Theyll get that feeling of being able to say what can we do to help?, Sharp said.

In addition to assessing the firefighters readiness, Sharp said the drill was a test of our ability to think through the procedures we would have followed in a real event.

Another drill is planned in March when the Oregon Health Division will visit Brookings and grade Cal-Ore on its ability to deal with these types of disasters.