Preparedness & Recovery

Drill Prepares Emergency Responders for Real-Life Tragedies

The arms and legs of those trapped inside one of the cars resting on its side were visible from several feet away.

by JULIE BLUM, Columbus Telegram, Neb. / August 23, 2017
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(TNS) — The vehicles were mangled with shattered windows and dented roofs and doors.

The arms and legs of those trapped inside one of the cars resting on its side were visible from several feet away.

Rescue crews arrived at the scene in emergency vehicles, red lights flashing as they pulled up to the fire training tower near Columbus Municipal Airport.

They grabbed their gear and headed to the multiple-vehicle wreck hoping to get everyone out alive and safely transported by helicopter to a trauma center.

The rescue personnel went through four different scenarios Monday that all involved traffic accidents with injuries during the mock emergency training exercise.

“We will see how well people think on their feet,” said Columbus Fire Chief Dean Hefti, who watched the approximately 25 emergency workers taking part in the drills.

Every few years, a mock emergency is held locally for fire and rescue personnel, law enforcement officers and others to practice their training in real-life scenarios.

“It brings all the emergency response people together and we get to see what everybody is doing, how everybody is going to work together,” Hefti said.

That includes Midwest MedAir.

This is the first time the medical helicopter service was part of the drill in Columbus.

At the scene of the accident, the yellow helicopter flew overhead after it was called in to transport victims. The chopper landed on a concrete slab a few yards from the scene and emergency workers rushed to get the injured ready for transport.

Mannequins were used as victims stuck inside the wrecked vehicles and emergency workers had to use tools such as the Jaws of Life to free them. Four people volunteered to play victims who were thrown or removed from the vehicles. They had various injuries and were assessed at the scene. Each was transported in the air to another landing zone.

Mike Morgan, safety manager with Midwest MedAir, said hands-on training exercises are important.

“It goes back to the military: train the way you fight. You need to train the way things really happen. That way these guys feel confident in our abilities, we feel confident in their abilities, and everyone is working well together,” he said.

Morgan said Monday’s exercise was a test run and he hopes to have similar events every six months with Midwest MedAir and various agencies. He also wants involve other communities.

The entire exercise took about three hours to complete. At the end, a debriefing was held to discuss what went well and what needs to be improved.

The information will be used to develop better procedures, said Dan Miller, who was hired earlier this month to be the city's full-time fire chief. He's on the job now and will move to full time in January, when Hefti plans to retire.

Miller said the training is crucial, especially for this type of situation.

“Helicopters for medical transport are not used that frequently on scene. This will help the first responders develop an understanding of not only the dangers, but the complications of bringing a helicopter into an already complicated scene and managing all of the different factors involved in landing the helicopter safely, transferring a patient to the helicopter and getting the helicopter off the ground to a trauma center,” Miller said.

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©2017 the Columbus Telegram (Columbus, Neb.)

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