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Drill prepares responders for real emergency

Mass casualty exercise included volunteers at UNG-Gainesville

POSTED: July 13, 2013 12:18 a.m.

In the aftermath of the explosion, first responders rushed into the smoky gymnasium to aid the 22 victims.

Fortunately, this was just an exercise and the victims were volunteers. The first responders, however, were real.

Approximately 35 medical personnel from nine different emergency response agencies participated in a “mass casualty” drill at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

The exercise simulated an explosion from a homemade bomb at a local high school basketball game.

“Our goal is to a create a realistic situation with a large number of patients in a short period of time,” said Lisa Janak Newman, a public affairs officer for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

“We want to overwhelm them.”

The drill was designed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute to stress the response effort in order to identify problems and improve multijurisdictional coordination, communication and resource management among the different agencies.

Volunteers were dressed as victims, complete with fake wounds, and played various roles, including unconscious or hysterical victims and “walking wounded.”

Emergency Medical Service personnel arrived on the scene, addressed the situation, set up a command system, treated the volunteers on site and then transported them to a staging area.

This scenario involved a fictional bomb made from a pressure cooker filled with nails, similar to those used in the Boston Marathon bombing.

“There is heightened awareness because of the Boston Marathon events,” said Newman. “We drill to prepare for those types of events but not because of them.”

GEMA hosts similar exercises annually in Georgia, often in different locations to prepare for possible disaster scenarios. Last year’s drill took place at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.

“If an explosion were to happen that caused mass casualties, we want emergency medical personnel to be ready,” said Newman. “We want their response to be second nature.”

Newman recommends visiting GEMA’s Ready Georgia website, ready.ga.gov, to learn how to properly prepare for any kind of disaster.


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