Emergency response practiced at airport mock disaster

Darlene Wroe

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ARMSTRONG TOWNSHIP - The Earlton airport was the scene of a mock emergency event November 17, with three stations set up where personnel from a number of different units practiced their emergency response skills.

Emergency Medical Service paramedics, Earlton Fire Department firefighters, Ontario Provincial Police officers, and medical staff from Blanche River Health responded to a mock disaster at the airport.

In the scenario, an airplane struck a loader on the airport field. The "airplane," which was a fuselage provided by The Loomex Group (which contracts to the airport), had 20 health care students from Timiskaming District Secondary School (TDSS) who played the roles of injured patients requiring rescue, transportation and care from the teams of responders. One student also had the role of the injured loader operator.

Airport manager James Smith said a full-scale exercise is required every four years by the airport to test its emergency response plan and to meet Transport Canada regulations because it's a federally certified airport. A tabletop emergency exercise is also required every two years, he said.

"Loomex has been doing this for probably seven years now," he said, and has fuselages it provides to airports across Canada for their mock disaster exercises.

Smith commended the TDSS students for their creative enactments as crash victims.

TWINS

"One of the passengers decided she was going to give birth," he said, and as it turned out twins were “delivered” during the scenario. The twist scenario had not been expected, he said.

TDSS science teacher Thomas McLean was present at the scene while his health care students carried out their roles.

He explained that part of the exercise was to triage the victims. A black tag indicated deceased; a red tag indicated needing to be transferred to hospital as quickly as possible with life-threatening problems; yellow was for those who probably could last a couple of hours before they needed to be transported to hospital; and green was for those with minor injuries.

He said simulations also assist his students in practicing their skills.

Blanche River Health vice-president of clinical services and chief nursing officer Martha Cope was also present with manager of patient care services Mel Szluga and manager of in-patient services Sherry L'Heureux.

Cope said they were there observing what the steps are for emergency response. She said the exercise with large numbers of people provided an insight into handling a disaster with multiple casualties, people, families and potential decontamination policy procedures.

"It's important that we're part of exercises like this."

She said it also helps to create relationships across multiple organizations and mock scenarios help to maintain skills and processes and make sure that they're staying current.

"It's a benefit for all organizations in the region and the communities that people know that we're working together and we do run through scenarios to keep up and practice, and make sure we are as coordinated as we can be."

Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker