Monday, June 6, 2011

Prepare for the Worst Case!

We never know when it will happen—a bus accident, a chemical leak or a terrorist incident. There are many scenarios that could produce a Mass Casualty Incident or MCI. The goal in an MCI is to triage the injuries, provide immediate temporary treatment in the field to the largest number of salvageable patients and transport all patients to the hospitals in the most expeditious manner possible. This requires leadership, teamwork and coordination.

Our drill this week in Hillsboro involved Hillsboro Fire Department, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, Cornelius Fire & Rescue, Washington County Fire District No. 2, Metro West Ambulance and Life Flight Air Ambulance. The mission was to practice this low frequency incident that can easily overwhelm first responders. Our incidents have differed each day. Usually, they involved a school bus filled with students. A collision (simulated) occurs with another vehicle or possibly two to three other vehicles of varying types. Students from various Hillsboro high schools and other volunteers presented simulated injuries with the aid of moulage, makeup and prosthetics applied to the body to simulate trauma injuries. The firefighters first arriving on the scene had to quickly set up a command structure and triage the patients. The incident commander had to order additional resources that would arrive in time to help them get the most seriously injured to area hospitals within the first hour following the crash. That often requires a well choreographed process of extricating mangled bodies from crunched cars without doing more harm.

The incident commander must delegate many tasks to firefighters trained in their respective tasks. Some will provide treatment to the patients. Others will coordinate the large number of ambulances required to transport 15 to 20 patients from a single incident. All this has to occur while ensuring everyone is operating in a safe manner.

Our thanks go to the citizens served by all of the agencies taking part in this week’s drill. Your support of them helps make the public safety network we all rely upon much stronger.