Editor’s note: Reporter Mark Boyle takes us behind the scenes of news stories in the area. This week, he looks at emergency responders training to deal with mass casualties.
Lawrence and Douglas County emergency responders train tirelessly to prepare for any situation that may arise.
Until this past week, one intensive training exercise had never been undertaken. That training tested the partnership and teamwork between Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and the Community Emergency Response Team.
An event causing mass casualties is a realistic concern in eastern Kansas, and the latest round of CERT training exercises brought the two groups together for one common goal: to save lives.
“It’s great when we have an opportunity like this to simulate it as close as we can to a real-life situation; it kind of helps us coordinate and find areas that we need to work on communication or whatever it is with multiple groups and agencies,” said Pat Karlin, a captain with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.
CERT consists of area volunteers trained in basic first aid. They are taught to take care of themselves and others in a large-scale emergency. The volunteers also provide extra sets of hands for Fire Medical professionals in the event of a catastrophe.
On Tuesday night, Lawrence Boy Scouts, including many from Troop 59, were dressed up as accident victims at the Fire Medical Training Center in East Lawrence as crews were dispatched for a training exercise simulating a large-scale bus accident.
Participants said the training was the time to make mistakes rather than in an actual emergency.
“From what I saw, it went really well,” said Kate Dinneen, duty officer for Douglas County Emergency Management. “The CERT members seemed to stay out of the way when they should. They were still trying to figure out exactly what it was they should be doing, but part of that was that the Lawrence Fire Department also was trying to figure out what CERT could do and what they could be asked to do.”
Overall, the training exercise was deemed a success.
“We were overwhelmed with the treatment, but I am sure transportation was overwhelmed more than we were, but we were trying to do the best we could, and I think it went well,” said Fire Medical Capt. Joe Schaumburg.
Asked whether Fire Medical is ready for a mass casualty incident, Schaumburg replied, “I think this is a step in the right direction.” CERT organizers stressed the importance of having even more volunteers trained and ready for the worst.
Dinneen says CERT looks for groups of people who want to volunteer, such as businesses and church organizations.