MCI Drills Paid Off When Propane Tank Exploded in Wash.

Every medic in the district is drilled at least once a year on a mass-casualty scenario


 
 

Rikki King, The Daily Herald | | Wednesday, February 29, 2012


EDMONDS, Wash. -- When a propane tank exploded at a construction site near Edmonds last week, Snohomish County firefighters and paramedics were ready.

Crews were summoned about 11 a.m. Thursday to the Picnic Point Wastewater Treatment plant project. A valve had sheared off the tank, exposing 300 gallons of propane that then ignited.

Initial reports said as many as 20 people were injured. Flames were spreading into nearby buildings and trees.

The 911 calls set in motion a sophisticated plan for dealing with a large-scale emergency, said Capt. Shaughn Maxwell, who helps oversee medical operations for Snohomish County Fire District 1.

Within 15 minutes of crews arriving on scene, the three most critically injured people were in ambulances on their way to the region's trauma center in Seattle, Maxwell said. Within 22 minutes, two more were being transported, and roughly 45 others had been medically evaluated.

Thursday's incident had the potential to become what emergency responders call a "mass casualty incident" -- a crisis that overwhelms available resources. This time, there was a fire, at least two explosions and a large number of people who reportedly had been hurt.

Fire District 1 only sees an emergency of that scale every few years, but they have to be ready, Maxwell said.

"It doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen for sure," he said.

Every firefighter and medic in the district is drilled at least once a year on a mass-casualty scenario, he said. Real-life calls in the past have included carbon monoxide poisonings, pepper spray going off in a crowded building, and a track team attacked by stinging insects.

The fire district has been able to take advantage of post-9/11 Homeland Security funding and training, Maxwell said. They use emergency-response models developed in war-torn countries, where crews are accustomed to mass trauma.

On Thursday, emergency responders relied on a comprehensive county-wide plan that includes constant drilling, Maxwell said.

When practicing for mass-casualty events, Fire District 1 drills with neighboring fire departments, including the one at Paine Field, in addition to private ambulance companies, he said.

"All these agencies drill together so they can come together when these incidents happen," he said.

The planning and drilling gives them a streamlined framework for tackling a chaotic event, he said.

Every crew that responds to a big emergency is assigned a specific role. That might include a group to get people to hospitals, a group that focuses on rescuing anyone trapped and a group to put out a fire.

"Our first issue is life, life-safety, and then fire suppression," Maxwell said.

A number of factors came together Thursday that helped the emergency response work as well as it did, Maxwell said.

To start with, there were few other calls for help in the area at the same time. Fire departments from Lynnwood, Mukilteo, Clearview and Paine Field shared people and equipment.

Rural/Metro, a private ambulance company, pitched in from its fleet.

"In a normal situation, you might set up a treatment area and start treating those people waiting for ambulances," Maxwell said. "In this situation, everything went right, and we were able to immediately load every patient into an ambulance and start transporting them."

All of those injured had been working for a general contractor at the site, officials said. They are all expected to recover from the burns they received.

The explosion has been ruled an accident. Because it involved serious injuries in a workplace, it remains under investigation by the state Department of Labor & Industries.

Construction at the site remained halted Monday, said Mike Pivec, an administrative services manager with the Alderwood Water and Wastewater District.

District officials hope to determine in the next few days when work can resume, Pivec said. Sewage treatment at the plant has not been impacted.



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, MCI

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Four Killed in New Mexico Medical Plane Crash

Crash near fairgrounds claims patient and crew of three.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Involved in Crash

Odessa ambulance and car collide during response.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Las Vegas Fire, AMR Reach New Deal

Tentative agreement reached over ambulance calls.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Fire Damages Several Homes in California Earthquake

Four homes destroyed and others damaged after quake rattles Napa.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Mexico Air Ambulance Crash

NTSB investigates crash that killed four.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.? Scranton

JEMS Editor-in-Chief visits his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Over 100 Injured in California Earthquake

172 patients treated at Napa hospital after 6.0-magnitude earthquake.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >