Disaster Drill Highlights Mass. University's Student-Run EMS

This year an explosion left people with varying degrees of injuries and collapsed part of the roof


 
 

JACQUELINE REIS, Telegram & Gazette | | Monday, April 25, 2011


WORCESTER - A woman walked up to Melanie F. Hardy and said she needed a head laceration.

"All right. Those are popular. Those are in season today," said Miss Hardy, a professional film industry makeup artist who graduated from Clark University in 2008.

Her head wounds blossomed throughout the halls of Clark's Dolan Field House yesterday as the Clark University EMS squad ran its second annual mass casualty incident drill. The goal was to train the student-staffed EMS squad to triage, treat and transport a group of people, and doing so took about 20 volunteer "patients," pros like Miss Hardy, and oversight from campus police and MedStar ambulance, who provided materials for the drill.

Clark and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are the only two colleges in the city that have student-run EMS teams, said William T. Murdock, MedStar manager, but Fitchburg State University EMS runs on a similar model, according to an FSU spokesman. Clark students who join are trained as first responders, and about half go on to train as emergency medical technicians, said Marc Benoit, a junior, who is co-director of Clark University EMS. Jason Smith, a senior, is the other co-director. Both are looking into careers in the medical field.

Last year, the drill was based on a school shooting. This year, the premise was an explosion that left people with varying degrees of injuries and collapsed part of the roof, leaving first responders to crouch as they carried people on backboards down the stairs.

The group tagged each patient with a triage tag that could be scanned using a new scanner system, EMTrack, which MedStar received from the Department of Homeland Security. The scanners allow patients' basic information to be sent immediately to the hospital that will receive that patient, Mr. Murdock said.

Patients included Clark student Tanya B. Savitt, 20 of Westboro, who decided to join the effort at the last minute. "I was on my way to write a paper, and someone called me and said you get free pizza" if you volunteer, she said. She moaned convincingly while pinned under a sofa and bleeding from the head.

Kim A. Desy of Sturbridge, a ringer with experience in casualty drills, came with her two sons, Bryce, 13, and Graydon, 11. The boys weren't squeamish. "I have an abdominal laceration, so my guts are spilled," Bryce said.

Miss Hardy, who works on monster movies, came equipped with three kinds of blood: "wet, thick and chunky." Faux vomit on the floor gave the EMS folks something else to worry about.

About 20 minutes into the drill, all the patients had been tagged red, yellow or green, and many had been taken from the accident scene to the treatment area. The EMS team was already doing better than last year, when everyone had been tagged red, Mr. Murdock said. He encouraged them to make sure the response matched the wound - "He's a burn. Take the collar off of him" - and to make sure the focus was on preparing people for transport, not treating them there: "Stop the bleeding, get them breathing" and move them out, he said.

The students might never face a disaster on the scale of yesterday's drill, but Clark University Police Chief Stephen P. Goulet said he likes to be prepared. "I think being prepared gives us an assurance that we can handle it, although we hope that this never happens," he said.
 



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