Green River prepares for disaster: Mock training for accidents and haz-mat
|Sgt. Mitch Vetere gives orders at the mock disaster training exercise in Green River.|
The first reaction when coming upon an accident scene is to rush in and see if you can be of assistance. Especially if you are a trained EMT, deputy, fire fighter or rescue worker. At the mock training exercise in Green River recently, just rushing in would have been your demise as a toxic chemical had contaminated the crash site leading to several serious complications.
Sgt. Martin Wilson from the Emery County Emergency Response team is a firm believer that you will react in any given situation as you have been trained to react. These mock training exercises are a good way to iron out any potential future problems on a real emergency scene.
Green River High School drama students looked the part of victims in a staged accident with a farmer's pickup which happened to be carrying malathion which is extremely volatile.
The young people in the accident and those in the pick-up received severe injuries. Passersby stopped at the mock accident scene and loaded six of those injured and took them to the Green River Clinic.
Sgt. Mitch Vetere was the first responder on the scene followed by Green River EMTs, Green River fire department and the Emery County Emergency response team and Carbon County Haz-Mat team.
Sgt. Vetere was the incident commander and responsible for the directions given at the scene. When the EMTs arrived they rushed to the accident victims, but were sent back by Sgt. Vetere. With the chemical spill the whole accident had become a hazardous site. Care couldn't be given to the victims until the chemical was secure. Anyone handling the victims became contaminated themselves.
A worker at the clinic became contaminated when handling the car load of victims taken there. The haz-mat team arrived and immediately set-up the decontamination tent. The fire truck has a hose connected which supplied water to the decontamination tent. Most chemicals can be removed from the skin by flushing with clear water and sometimes detergent is added.
EMT supervisor, Diane Chandler said, "We have identified some things to work on in the future."
Sgt. Wilson said, "It's hard to simulate everything. There is no right or wrong and every situation is going to be different."
Sgt. Vetere upon arriving at the scene set up a perimeter and checked for wind directions. In a populated area evacuation might be needed if the chemical fumes spread over an area.
The group evaluated the mock exercise and determined that dispatch had done a good job in notifying everyone of the emergency and getting them to the site swiftly.
The haz-mat team reminded everyone of the distance involved for them to travel to a scene and after notification that they are needed the response time needs to be taken into consideration.
|Sgt. Dusty Butler and Deputy Jerod Curtis work on victims at the mock accident scene.|
Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon said that one mistake people make is going in before you know it's safe. This is one reason for trainings of these types.
The haz-mat team upon arriving at a scene will identify the chemical with a test. In this scenario everyone thought they knew what the chemical was because of the name on the barrel, but Sheriff Guymon reminded everyone that sometimes farmers put something else in a barrel and it's imperative to be absolutely sure of what you're dealing with. "We would rather you error on the side of safety," said Sheriff Guymon.
One difficulty noted was the lack of manpower and in a real emergency situation personnel would really be stretched. When the haz-mat crew is suiting up they need someone to help them get everything on and to tape them. It was suggested that firemen or CERT teams could help in these areas and the firemen could work on perimeter control.
Sheriff Guymon suggested that as everyone comes on the scene they be given a job to do and as they are needed elsewhere then pull them off that job. One thing everyone needs to work on is taking orders and doing as they are told until they are told to do something different.
It was learned that one person can't take charge of the entire scene that it is too much and group leaders for each area are needed. It was also learned there were too many people giving orders and not enough people to carry them out.
Jason Llewelyn from the Carbon County haz-mat team said it could take as long as three hours for them to get to a scene, set up and positively identify the chemical.
Sgt. Vetere said, "A lot of you put yourselves in danger before haz-mat arrived and we knew what we were dealing with. I needed to keep people with me. People kept wandering off and the accident victims were hard to keep isolated. I should have told those involved to just stay with me. We need to know how to use the radios and which channel we will be on. Leaders need to monitor the channels for instruction. If we can't communicate we can't solve any problems."
Sheriff Guymon said responders need to be ready for anything at an accident scene. The dispatch receives information from a witness usually or a passerby who may not know exactly what happened and usually when you arrive at the scene you will find something different than what was described. The correct information needs to get back to dispatch so a complete and accurate assessment and record can be kept of the incident. You need to be able to make changes as you go and adapt.
Those suited up for the decontamination get too hot really quickly in the suits and it is exhausting work. Sgt. Wilson suggested becoming more physically fit and hitting the gym to gain strength and endurance.
Sgt. Tom Harrison said physical conditioning becomes even more important should an incident happen in August when extreme heat adds to the fatigue of the rescuers. It was suggested it would be nice if there were two support people for each haz-mat technician dressed in full gear. Sgt. Harrison also reminded everyone that the vital signs of those suited up need to be taken before they suit up and go in and after they come out of the hazardous situation.
Sheriff Guymon said the county is in no way equipped to handle something this big and surrounding counties would need to be called in to assist. He said sometimes you're afraid of calling in too many people, but people can always be cancelled if they aren't needed.
Sgt. Wilson said that volunteer teams like CERT need someone to lead them and give instructions.
Sheriff Guymon was pleased with the training exercise and the emergency response team will continue to train and prepare for emergency situations.