First responders prepare for the worstCarlton County’s most recent rescue training was a lot more graphic than the previous week’s mock grain bin rescues.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Carlton County’s most recent rescue training was a lot more graphic than the previous week’s mock grain bin rescues.
Made up to look like victims of a school bus versus car accident, the pretend victims were bloodied with broken limbs, glass sticking out of their heads — and one even had to hold his fake intestines in front of his stomach until showtime.
“We placed the 911 call at 10:34 a.m.,” said Thomas Fread, organizer and Carlton volunteer firefighter/EMT. “The pagers went off at 10:35.”
First responders and EMTs from numerous area agencies — Carlton, Cloquet, Cromwell and Esko, among them — participated in the mass casualty incident exercise, along with the Carlton County Sheriff’s Department to test their preparedness and response to a real mass casualty event. Fread said they tried to make it as realistic as possible, not only with makeup and props (courtesy of Arrowhead EMS and Mercy Hospital staff) but also with response times.
When responders arrived at the accident scene at Godbout Road, they found a school bus turned on its side in one ditch, and an overturned car in the other. There were 17 “victims,” all of them Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College law enforcement or first responder students.
The exercise was eight months in the making and years overdue, Fread said. While he spearheaded the effort, people from each area rescue agency also took part in the planning.
“We found things that worked very well and things we need to improve,” Fread said. “We want to offer the best service possible to the community — that’s the whole reason we do these things.”
He guessed it had been around 15 years since Carlton last staged a mass casualty exercise involving other agencies, noting that Moose Lake and Mercy Hospital did a similar exercise recently at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program facility, but not with the rest of the county.
“‘Mass casualty’ refers to having more patients than our department can handle,” Fread said. “It could be a plane crash, a business or school shooting, whatever. It’s really about the number of patients.”
He’s hoping different agencies within the county will take turns each year staging a similar exercise.
Fread figured about 35 different responders participated in the drill, which actually didn’t cost much because the old school bus was donated as were the makeup services. “Inexpensive, but valuable” were Fread’s exact words.
While the Carlton Fire and Ambulance Department were the first to answer the 911 call, they quickly called for other departments to assist. The only one that couldn’t respond was the Hibbing LifeLink helicopter, because the weather conditions were poor, something that could happen in real life as well.
“We’d rather there were more people coming, rather than too few, because we can cancel a call,” he said. “But we’d rather be two steps ahead than 12 steps behind.”