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Medical center teaches paramedics to handle disasters

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Jonathan Hammel, a paramedic from Allentown, is used to giving intravenous fluids to patients. He said he probably does a couple hundred a year.

He usually doesn't have to crawl 10 feet on his belly through collapsed buildings in the dark to reach a patient crushed by rubble whose arm is the only body part uncovered in order to do it, however.

That's what he was practicing Tuesday during a simulation exercise at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

He is among 26 paramedics and doctors from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Mexico for FEMA and PEMA medical training related to mass disasters such as the collapse of the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma City bombing, Hurricane Katrina or earthquakes. Many will become part of 28 national FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams.

The students practice several scenarios during their week's training. On Thursday, at Harrisburg Area Community College, they will try to put all their skills together in teams to rescue patients from a simulated mass calamity.

The scenarios "stress them, and that is the whole point," according to David Jaslow, a doctor with the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia who helps run the courses. "If they overcome their fears in the classroom, they can do it in real life."

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