Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 26 September 2013 10:32
A simulated turnpike disaster prompted emergency staff from across the region to practice their response to a massive car crash Wednesday.
|Crews run through a drill during a mass casualty exercise at the Center for Emergency Preparedness. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Police, fire and emergency medical personnel collaborated at Owens Community College to test a disaster response plan that's been more than a year in the making.
Those who participated know how to respond to emergencies, but this exercise was more about pooling resources and practicing communication in a hectic environment.
For several hours Wednesday, responders shuttled high-school "victims" away from the scene to a triage area where patients could be prioritized based on the severity of their injuries.
Some students played the part well, yelling and screaming emphatically and continually sounding car horns to alert rescuers.
To minimize ambulance mileage and the impact on the area hospitals that participated, patients were staged at those hospitals rather than being transported there as they would in a real scenario.
A federal grant funded the exercise in which about a dozen Perrysburg Township firefighters were first to respond, an effort Chief Tom Brice called "challenging."
"Never in my life have I responded to an emergency like this," he said. "Not many people have."
As the first to arrive at the scene, Perrysburg Township responders "set the stage for the entire exercise," Brice said.
"The initial minutes determine how it's all going to go."
Perrysburg Township Deputy Chief Jim Rodriguez, who served as an incident commander during the exercise, said it was a good test of how area agencies would respond to such a scenario.
"It's not a matter of if something like this is going to happen, but when it's going to happen."
Communication was the biggest challenge, Rodriguez said, as Lucas County departments operate on different radio frequencies than those in Wood County. Perrysburg Township firefighters have access to several radios that can communicate with Toledo personnel, but many had to route orders and information through officers instead of responders themselves.
The practice should be helpful in making a case when applying for grants to acquire more of those radios in the future, Rodriguez said.
While they might help, radios and other tools won't make for a perfect response. Some things just can't be simulated, he pointed out.
On Wednesday, those students who weren't considered seriously injured, referred to as green patients or "walking wounded," mostly kept to the side. But in an actual emergency, responders would have more difficulty keeping patients from clinging to and checking on friends and family.
"You can have the finest equipment and be prepared for everything, and you're still going to run into obstacles," Rodriguez said.