Mock disaster drill provides valuable training
FARMINGTON - In red and black makeup, 10 volunteers played the injured and, in one case, deceased, who were all victims of a gasline explosion at a nursing home as part of a mock drill held Tuesday afternoon.
Franklin Memorial Hospital and Edgewood Rehab and Living Center teamed up to stage the mock disaster that was intended to put emergency responders to the test.
A county dispatcher declared repeatedly, "exercise, exercise, exercise," which was followed with the report of an explosion at Edgewood. Farmington, Fire Chief Terry Bell asked how many injuries and a dispatcher replied "nothing from them." A call for mutual aid towns was practiced and then the report of three injured and one deceased in the kitchen area was relayed. The Fire Marshall's Office was contacted due to the known death and serious injuries reported. Fire fighters were called to help drive the ambulances because the NorthStar Emergency Medical Services crews would be to busy at the scene performing triage or prioritizing injured patients for treatment.
Bell and Deputy Fire Chief Tim Hardy arrived first to the sound of a loud alarm going off in the living center. Quickly assessing the situation, Hardy calls for help in "the kitchen area for patient triage," over the radio.
Outside, Clyde Ross has set up a command center board to keep track of how many are injured, where emergency crews are needed and for what.
Within minutes, Ross has received the report that there are nine patients with various injures, such as burns and at least one patient with an impalement, and one person dead and that the explosion took place in the kitchen area. A primary search has been completed and three ambulances have arrived with crews dispatched to the most seriously injured first, in order to stabilize and get them to the hospital first. Other patients who are less seriously injured are moved to a big room for further assessment.
All this was carried on in the main hall, kitchen and front recreation room at Edgewood. Other than the fire alarm blaring, residents were off in other parts of the building, having been told, along with their family members, there would be a bit more excitement going on today.
"No actual patients were involved," noted Carol Timberlake, Edgewood's administrator. The mock drill's actors were played by volunteers from the Edgewood and FMH staff members. Edgewood's residents are already used to the alarm going off because there's a fire drill held once a month, Timberlake said. She added the drill provided the Edgewood staff "with a great connection" with the fire department and the hospital staff.
Timberlake worked with Michael Senecal, FMH's emergency preparedness coordinator, who came up with the mock disaster scenario put to use this afternoon.
According to Senecal, the goal of the drill is to test all involved agencies ability to respond and manage an emergency situation. Outside observers will closely monitor these agencies’ abilities to handle several areas of the drill including overall response, scene stabilization, internal and external communication, and maintaining normal operations.
Warning signs that a mock drill was being held were posted on Fairbanks Road so motorists passing by wouldn't be alarmed at t he sight of fire trucks and multiple ambulances parked out from of the the nursing home.
Things went pretty smoothly, said Felecia Harris, NorthStar's operational director. She added the drills, held a couple times a year, provide valuable training for all emergency crew members.