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NEWS | May 23, 2012

First Responders Practice to Make Perfect

By Senior Airman Nicholas Pilch 1st Combat Camera Squadron

Charleston area first responding agencies, to include members from Joint Base Charleston, gathered to train and work through an exercise with more than 100 mass casualty injuries May 15, in North Charleston.

Emergency workers in three counties conducted a live mass-casualty incident readiness exercise. The drill was set up at The Farm at Wescott Plantation with a simulated explosion at the Amenity Center. The exercise was conducted in accordance with criteria established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"Today was a good opportunity for all agencies involved to get together and work out bugs so when a real world incident happens we can all respond as a team and save lives," said Chief Russell Stanley of the North Charleston Fire Department.

The 24 agencies involved set up a "night club" scene at the Amenity Center and staged an explosion causing more than 100 simulated injuries to role players.

Some involved were not just first responders, but also first responders in training.

A number of Medical University of South Carolina nursing school students participated in the exercise, applying makeup to look like burn victims. Among those students were dependents from Joint Base Charleston, Elsie Sabine, a U.S. Navy spouse from Illinois, and Caroline Dawson, a soon to be U.S. Army spouse.

"It felt like this could have been the rapture," said McRae Hamer of Summerville, a nursing student at the Medical University of South Carolina. "Thankfully it wasn't, but it was good seeing this from a nursing student perspective and getting to be 'injured.' It was a great learning experience, from injury to triage to treatment, then to the emergency room. It all happened pretty fast."

Seven Airmen from JB Charleston supplemented local first responders with additional emergency medical support. The Airmen also brought a blue passenger bus modified to serve as an ambulance, or "ambu-bus."

"Today was spectacular," said Senior Airman Taylor Savage, a medical technician with the 628th Medical Operations Squadron. "We showed up in the ambu-bus and ended up treating eight patients and rushed them to Roper Northwoods in North Charleston."

"Incidents like this could happen at any time and it is better to be prepared than be surprised," Savage added. "These exercises are important because we get to work with other people that we don't typically work with and we can learn a thing or two from each other."