Members of the River Campus Medical Emergency Response Team and UR Security simulated a mass casuality incident on Saturday at the Sigma Chi fraternity house.

The drill allowed emergency responders to hone their response and treatment skills.

“The first drill occurred last year at the same time and security was so pleased they wanted to make it an annual event and get us involved in a larger scale drill,” MERT Director of Operations and senior Joshua Brown said.

For this particular scenario, MERT staged a mock explosion in the middle of the SC house and scattered actors as victims throughout the first floor and basement of the house. While SC brothers unaffiliated with MERT did not participate in the event, they sponsored the drill and willingly allowed MERT to take over their house for the afternoon.

The drill was run by four leaders, the operations officer, safety officer, the incident commander and the triage and treatment officer. MERT members trained as Emergency Medical Technician were the rescuers during the drill, while twenty other MERT members acted as patients.

The organizer of the event, MERT Assistant Director of Training and sophomore Daniel Nassau, planned the large scale simulation and worked with UR officials to gather resources and clearance for the event.

“We had to meet with the fire marshal because we put black sheets over all the windows and [purposely] set off the fire alarm,” Brown said.

While the likelihood of a mass casualty incident at UR may be low, the drill was an opportunity for MERT to practice their rescue skills in a stressful environment. MERT is first on scene to medical emergencies on campus and frequently responds to challenging incidents.

“No matter how much training you have, you’re never going to be fully prepared.”

“The MCI drill [sharpened] our problem-solving skills because we had to deal with events we wouldn’t normally know how to prepare for,” Nassau said.

While the drill’s premise was an explosion, mass casualty incidents can be much less dramatic. “[Any situation] in which the resources of an agency are taxed is considered an MCI,” MERT Assistant Director of Operations and senior Alexandra Cornwall said.

Because the MCI drill was staged, Nassau needed to raise the stakes in order to really test agency members.

“Dan simulated a couple of false calls at 12:15 p.m., just before the event was scheduled to take place, calls that are typical responses for us,” Cornwall said. “We got a tone for a patient who was supposedly having difficulty breathing in Wilson Commons, and then three minutes later, a call for a student with a knee injury in the Goergen Athletic Center. We walked onto the scene totally prepared and found out it was fake. Dan did it to keep us on our toes.”

The actual drill began at 12:30 p.m. with a call that there was an explosion at SC.

Brown immediately called security who, in turn, responded in full force. A phone tree was initiated and all of the responders were notified.

“I set up a command post, took student IDs [of responding MERT members] so we knew who was there,” Brown said.

Cornwall was in charge of distributing equipment to the two-person rescue teams and dispatching them accordingly.

MERT first sent in the triage team who assessed how many patients were present and the severity of their injuries.

“We kept track of which hospital the different patients would be sent to so we wouldn’t over-flood the [emergency departments],” Brown said. “About half way through the drill, we set off the fire alarm and all the rescuers were called out – the safety of the rescuers comes first. It becomes emotionally draining because even though the patients were actors, they screamed ‘help me, please don’t leave me!'”

After the chaotic event concluded, MERT and UR Security went over their strengths and weaknesses in a debriefing.

“We needed some improvement in organizing our communication,” Brown said. “Since we had multiple patients, communication is the number one priority.”

“Rescuers learned a lot about scene safety,” Nassau said. “You need to watch out for yourself first, in order to help treat a patient.”

Permutt can be reached at spermutt@campustimes.org.



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