In the case of a mass casualty disaster, an array of rescue teams – EMTs, fire and rescue, police, dispatch and more – are a call away.
So, what happens during a mass casualty event, such as a multiple car pileup or a school bus accident in Knox County? And, how do these crews come together during these crises?
Jean Henes says the disaster drill helps all parties know their role in an accident.
Henes, director of Nursing and Patient Care Services at Avera Creighton Hospital, organized this year’s disaster drill on Monday at the Creighton football field.
Before the drill, all participants enjoyed hamburger meals and received a quick refresher course on what to do at an accident from Carol Rodenborg.
Rodenborg went over topics such as who is in charge when responding to a scene, triage - sorting the injured by priority, transportation and more.
“We are in control of a lot of how this is going to play out by the decisions we make on the field,” Rodenborg said, stressing the drill’s importance.
She also emphasized how mistakes and losses of patients are inevitable, but the key is to stick to what they learned.
“We can start with some structure and try to make some wise decisions in the process,” Rodenborg said.
The more she spoke, the more apparent it became that these drills are important. There may never be a mass casualty in the area, but it is important to be prepared.
Rodenborg brought up the Pilger tornado incident and how many ambulances from the area responded.
“There were a ton of ambulances down there. We didn’t need them all, but it was a good thing they were there,” she said.
What should happen during a mass casualty?
First, when arriving first on the scene, someone must take control and become the commander.
Then, someone must be the designated triage. The triage is the one who inspects victims, deciding how bad their injuries are within 30 seconds.
Critical victims are labeled red. Yellow is designated for those just under critical condition, and green is given to those who can breath, have a pulse and are coherent. Black is designated for victims who are too far gone to help or dead.
The triage must remember it is their duty to identify the victim’s color and move on. They cannot start treating until everyone has a color.
Once the triage identifies the victim with a color, they are brought to a corresponding designated treatment area. Then, a treatment responder prioritizes the injuries.
From there, the victim will start to receive treatment, bandages, oxygen and whatever the EMS can provide.
Someone else designated for transport will then send the patients to the appropriate hospitals.
According to Rodenborg, a hospital such as Creighton’s can only take two to three Reds at a time. So, knowing what hospitals can take what colors is vital.
“We would be just moving our mass casualty to the hospital,” Rodenborg said.
The transport needs to know how many Red and Yellow victims there are, as well as what hospitals can take them and what hospital is best suited for their injuries. They also need to designate how they will get there.
Drill execution was a success.
Monday’s drill was set up a little differently.
Henes organized the event so there would be two waves of the drill.
“Usually during the disaster drill, the people at the hospital don’t get to see what happens at the scene of the disaster. So tonight, we did it so they could watch once and participate once,” Henes said.
Henes was hopeful that this way, everyone could better understand each other’s roles and learn from watching.
By having two waves, everyone could also see how they work together and find out where there was room for improvement.
“Communication is always our number one thing to work on,” Henes said.
On the field, one end zone represented the accident scene and a fake hospital was set up near the 50 yard line.
The pretend hospital and responders had radios to keep in communication with one another.
Nineteen football dummies and cardboard cutouts that represented children and adults were strewn across the end zone. Each had a piece of paper listing the injuries each person had.
Team one of two took the field first.
Dispatch made “calls” from the birds nest in the bleachers while responders performed their duties. Evaluators like Rodenborg and Bryan Young oversaw the responders and made suggestions and answered questions.
Within no time, dummies were color-coded and separated by priority. They were then hauled on stretchers to their treatment areas, such as the makeshift hospital and the helicopter, which landed on the football field as part of the drill.
When the first team completed the drill, they switched places.
According to Rodenborg and Henes, both teams did amazing. The drill ran smoothly and many responders learned new things or were refreshed on their duties for if and when a mass casualty disaster ever occurs in Knox County.