Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Mass casualty drill treats 55 'victims'


Destiny Sargeant was wrapped under blankets, a vicious-looking burn on her broken leg, and hoarse from moaning.

“They left me out there for a while, but they gave me a morphine drip, so I didn’t complain,” Sargeant said Saturday at the culmination of a seven-hour mass casualty drill. The exercise involved moving 55 “victims” from a propane blast at the Fort Seward parade grounds to a seven-tent mobile hospital near Third Avenue and Main Street.

Sargeant, a clinical trauma psychologist from Juneau, said she was impressed by the exercise, where ambulances moved all the victims in about 70 minutes. “It was a phenomenal overall response for such a small community.”

Sitka Fire Chief Dave Miller, who oversaw the exercise, said the purpose of bringing the drill to small communities like Haines is for people to know they’re not alone in the event of a disaster. It’s also to get emergency responders from Southeast communities working together. “Every crew worked well together,” he said.

Miller said the exercise was also to drill packing and setting up the seven hospital tents in Southeast and testing them as medical stations. “This is the modern version of MASH,” he said, referring to the 1970s TV show about Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals during the Korean War.

Besides medical equipment, the tents include restrooms, showers, heating, and contained ventilation systems, and can be insulated.

Michelle Brown, emergency program grant coordinator for the City and Borough of Juneau, said it was the first time all seven tents were set up together, and the first time responders held the drill in “real Southeast weather.”

Brown said an example of first responders cooperating in Southeast occurred during last year’s Gastineau Apartments fire in Juneau, when Sitka and Ketchikan firefighters stood in for exhausted ones from Juneau.