August 29, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 34

Drill will bring gore to parade grounds

What would happen if 30 to 50 people in Haines were injured simultaneously in one massive accident? Where would they go? Who would take care of them?

These are the questions more than 100 people descending on Haines from 11 Southeast communities will conjure during a mass-casualty training exercise Sept. 7.

The simulated accident – a propane tank explosion at the parade grounds in Fort Seward – will test how emergency responders and medical professionals operate in a mass-casualty situation.

Medical teams from 11 communities will participate, and seven of the 11 will bring “mobile hospitals,” 20-by-30-foot tents to be set up in the field behind the library and borough administration building.

Fireman Al Badgley said he is still looking for people to volunteer as victims. Victims will be outfitted with fake injuries and blood-like make-up and strewn about the parade grounds. They will also have a nametag elaborating the extent of their injuries, and will be triaged by medical responders.

“They’ll have pieces of bones sticking out of their arms. In the past, they’d get a chicken leg bone and break it in half and stick it out the arm,” Badgley said.

Tom Matisse, who is coordinating the training exercise as the program manager for the Southeast Alaska division of the Metropolitan Medical Response System, said this is the largest mass-casualty event he has put together.

“We wanted to bring together all the jurisdictions we’ve trained with and know on the day of a large catastrophic event that we are a team,” Matisse said.

The mobile hospitals will be erected Thursday, Sept. 5, and equipped with medical supplies and materials Friday, Sept. 6. The simulation will start Saturday around 9 a.m. and will be followed by a debriefing session to analyze strengths and weaknesses of the event.  

“The larger response element is how we’re going to support long-term care and recovery when your hospitals and clinics are swamped,” Matisse said.

Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health, Coast Guard, National Guard, and regional hospitals will also attend, Matisse said. “It’s planning, it’s training, and it’s exercise all together.”

Due to rearrangement of the program and it being placed under the umbrella of Homeland Security, this is the last year MMRS will be funding mass-casualty events. Matisse said that doesn’t mean such training exercises won’t be funded anymore, but it will require extra paperwork and involve more navigation of red tape to acquire funding.

To volunteer, contact Badgley at 766-2115.