We were joined by a group of new recruits last month, and Anthony (the training officer)decided to welcome them to the division by scaring the pants off them. He planned a massive disaster scenario, with them as the patients and us as the responders. It was a great idea and a lot of fun, but since only 3 of us showed up as responders, it became a lesson in how NOT to manage a disaster......
John, Shane and I pull up in the truck as we hear Anthony call over the radio, "There has been an explosion in the building, with casualties trapped. Fire has cleared the building so it is safe to enter, but EMS is unavailable due to a massive accident on the highway. Treat and evacuate all patients." Even though Shane and I know this is only a scenario, I can tell we're both excited. John just shakes his head at the two of us, I can almost hear his sighing thought, "Rookies!" We grab the stretcher and our gear and head into the building, the oh-so-familiar building where we've spent countless hours training and otherwise goofing off.
I push open the door and stop in shock - I don't recognize the place. Anthony has done an amazing job, along with his team of moulage artists. I step forward into the darkness, my flashlight beam picking up 'broken glass' covering the floor, furniture strewn about haphazardly and wires hanging from the fallen ceiling tiles. He's found disaster sound effects of some sort, ominous creaking and groaning provides a perfect backdrop for the screams and moans of the casualties. We move forward and find our first patients, an arterial bleed/spinal victim, an amputated hand and a woman in labour. After taking care of the arterial bleed, they leave me assessing the pregnant lady, and move towards the back of the building. An obviously dead woman with grey matter splattering the floor lies in their way, she is quickly moved aside, next to the fractured femur. Upstairs is a severe asthma attack and a few other minor casualties, they have their hands full.
I'm still with the woman in labour, I don't want to leave her - although there are much more serious patients to attend to. Eventually I clue in that I'm wasting time and leave her with a friend who has only minor injuries. It is complete chaos now, John and Shane have stair-chaired the asthma patient down, but since they didn't notice her puffer, she dies before they reach the door. Playing the role of the first responding paramedics, Paul chews them out for bringing him a dead patient before a critical one. They scurry back in, passing me as I quickly treat the amputated hand. Roy and Kyle show up now, still in their EMS uniforms, they both just left work. They just wander around the disaster scene though, not being very useful. Their arrival means EMS has been freed up though, so now we can evacuate more patients.
John disappears into the back room and I join Shane as we board the spinal victim. We're missing straps and he's lying in an awkward position in the dark, backboarding him is a challenge. We get him secured and bring the stretcher close, but Shane disappears around the corner. He returns very quickly, saying that Roy is coming to help lift. "No way!" I say, "We can lift him, just grab the other end, c'mon!" He looks concerned, "You sure?" I just nod and crouch at the head. We count and lift, straight up from the floor and over to the stretcher. Roy turns the corner as we begin to strap him on and jokingly says, "Lift assist for the wimps?" I scoff at him, "Pifft, we can handle it." He disappears just as the stretcher drops - freaking out our patient and both of us. I look up at Shane, "What did you do???" He sheepishly shrugs, "I guess it wasn't locked properly..." Fortunately, the guy we boarded is only slightly fazed, and not a real patient! We wheel him out to the lobby and let him loose, the poor guy has had to pee for the last hour and hasn't been able to leave.
Anthony comes over the radio again, "There is a VIP in the building, the deputy mayor. Have you located him yet?" We all look at each other and shrug, nope. We scurry around, doing another sweep of the building, looking for any patients we may have missed. Finally, one of the guys pushes open the bathroom door - revealing a pale, sweaty man who is clutching his chest. Darn it. Looks like we missed the dude having the MI! After a collective smack on the forehead, we wheel him out quickly and return to collect our last few patients. The scenario ends as the last patient is evacuated, we breathe a massive sigh of relief.
Even though it wasn't real, there were times in that hour and a half where we were flustered, overwhelmed and getting tunnel vision like crazy. We talked it out afterwards, and find a million things we did wrong. Granted, having only 3 initial responders made it close to impossible to set up a triage station and properly treat everyone, but we could've done a lot better. The newbies were impressed, anyways. We're going to do this regularly, with every group of new recruits, there will be another disaster scenario to welcome them to the division. It's something good to get practice doing, and besides, it's a ton of fun!