Emergency responders take classroom knowledge into field with mock crash
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent June 30, 2012 6:02PM
Matt Fletcher, of Lowell, plays the part of a traffic accident victim during a mass casualty drill on Saturday, June 30, 2012, in Crown Point. Paramedic and EMT students from St. Anthony EMS Academy took part in the drill which offers a real-life perspective of how to deal with an incident. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 2, 2012 10:27AM
CROWN POINT — It was a scene Saturday no first responder wants to encounter – five crashed cars, multiple victims bruised and bloodied in conditions from critical to stable, and a young child dead.
Paramedics, EMTs and firefighters worked the chaotic scene assessing victims, performing triage and air-lifting the most critical in the Flight for Life helicopter.
Fortunately for all involved, the scene in the Crown Point High School parking lot was a drill. Every effort was made to make the 13th annual staged mass casualty drill as realistic as possible for students in the St. Anthony Crown Point EMS Academy.
Those students were joined by firefighters and paramedics from several local departments including Crown Point, St. John and Hebron, along with the Department of Homeland Security District One Mass Casualty and Medical Response Strike Team serving Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties.
Christopher Fabris of Highland, a paramedic student at the academy, was director of a portion of the crash scene. He was responsible for coordinating the efforts of three to four emergency responders he had not worked with before.
“It exercises being able to think fast and act fast. Not only do you have to make the right decisions, you are making them very quickly,” Fabris said.
Mike Parks, a division chief with Crown Point Fire and Rescue and member of the task force, said that is just the type of experience organizers hope to create. Parks said the purpose of the drill is not to show responders how to respond to a scene or use equipment like the jaws of life to extricate a victim, but to provide them with as real an opportunity as possible to put those skills into action.
“One thing they quickly learn is to take the classroom stuff and expose it to the real world. They learn to apply it,” Parks said.
Part of the realism comes from the victims, members of the Crown Point and Lake Central high schools’ drama departments. Students are prepped for their roles, with what they should say and how they should act with their designated injuries. Makeup makes the blood and bruises more realistic.
Faoilean Cosgrove, 13, of Crown Point, was the cause of the disastrous wreck. Cosgrove played a victim who was overcome by anaphylactic shock after multiple bee stings while driving her pickup truck.
“I think it is actually really good acting experience,” she said, and a little scary.
Crown Point firefighter and paramedic student Mark Reed was tending to a victim with abdominal and hit pain. He said dealing with so many different people was a different experience than to what he was accustomed.
“It is a big help working with people from around the community. You get more experience,” Reed said.
His patient, Matt Fletcher, 18, of Lowell, was responding to questions about the pain that happens when he puts weight on his legs and pelvis area. He was quietly waiting for the chance to show the true nature of his injuries, damage to his spleen and liver.
“I’m going to keep going into shock later,” Fletcher said.