Mass casualty drill helps Texas EMT students get experience
Students were tasked with putting their classroom training to use in realistic scenario
By Carl Kieke
The Abilene Reporter-News
ABILENE, Texas — Controlled chaos struck Texas State Technical College's Abilene campus Friday morning as two vehicles carrying a variety of faculty members and others hit head-on in a field near the parking lot - although all injuries were pretend.
At least two people were "killed" in the crash. However, they continued breathing and, when not part of the main scene, could be seen occasionally shifting around and talking. One actually sat up and adjusted the blanket covering him.
The scene was a training exercise for the college's soon-to- graduate emergency medical technicians . The students arrived at the mock crash scene along with ambulances from MetroCare and Guardian and trucks and crews from View and Merkel volunteer fire departments.
Later, a helicopter from the Air Evac Lifeteam arrived to transport patients.
Students were tasked with putting their classroom training to use in a realistic scenario.
"What we're trying to do today is put together as real-life a scenario as we can so they can experience that chaos and still think through the processes as well as manage that chaos. It brings everything together," said Andy Weaver, director of the emergency medical technology program at TSTC.
Among the students taking part in the drill was Donald Lopez, 17, of Hamby. He had to move from an unresponsive person who was barely breathing, to a four-month-pregnant woman with considerable blood loss, to a woman with a chest wound. His group leader stayed with the first patient, allowing him to move around and help where needed.
"It was a great experience," Lopez said. "I was a little nervous. I knew it was going to be hectic and chaotic, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be."
Lopez had the benefit of experience. He has done clinical work with the Guardian ambulance service and the Mineral Wells Fire Department.
He said he had been told that his youth would make it difficult for him to complete the program. However, he is only a few steps from becoming a qualified EMT. He said he plans to take his training to the next level and already has been accepted for the paramedic program at TSTC.
Students weren't the only ones getting a chance to practice their skills. Members of the View and Merkel volunteer fire departments were on hand to cut open the cars to extricate the mock victims.
"We're able to work on our communication, hone our skills a little bit on a vehicle that we don't have to worry about," said Kris Hester, a captain with the Merkel Volunteer Fire Department. "There's no danger of an incident or things going wrong. We can look at it, evaluate it, try different tactics. It's no harm, no foul if we take a little longer or do something that doesn't work."
The school expressed gratitude for the agencies' help.
"We could not do this without the outside organizations," Weaver said. "These agencies come out because they know they are supporting future EMS professionals. They volunteer that help."
And how difficult was it to play dead?
"It was hard," said Alyssa Rhodes, who sought the role because her boyfriend's mother is an EMT. "Everybody in my car, we weren't really serious until they pulled the cover off of us. (Victims were covered to shield them while firefighters cut off the windshield and roof.) I was laughing the entire time. It was fun, that was for sure."
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