Involve Health Department, media early in MCIs of unknown cause

Make information sharing a part of your mass casualty incident protocols, especially in incidents involving children or unknown illness


FireRescue1 Executive Editor Marc Bashoor responded to the Camp Cloverleaf 4-H summer camp in Highlands County, Fla., in his role as public safety director. A total of 33 children and three adults were transported to local hospitals with nausea, vomiting, aches and pains, and some fevers, with undetermined cause.

By Chief Marc Bashoor, FireRescue1 Executive Editor

What happened: At about 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening, Highlands County Fla. (where I serve as the Public Safety director) received a 911 call reporting that a few children at a Camp Cloverleaf 4-H Camp were sick, with one passed out. The first arriving unit found a chaotic scene with camp counselors carrying kids to the ambulance.

Why it’s significant: With 20 or more children reported ill, ALS1 quickly called a mass casualty dispatch, bringing three additional ALS units. Highlands County operates nine ALS transport units, with three county hospitals to transport to.

Always be prepared for the unexpected, and anticipate the possibility of a mass casualty incident, with a solid protocol ready to go. (Photo/Highlands County EMS)
Always be prepared for the unexpected, and anticipate the possibility of a mass casualty incident, with a solid protocol ready to go. (Photo/Highlands County EMS)

There were 115 children from six different Florida counties at the camp for a week-long stay. All the patients were complaining of nausea, vomiting, and aches and pains, with some fevers.

Ultimately, 33 children and three adults were transported to two of the area hospitals, which called in extra staff to assist.

While no cause has been definitively ruled in or out, carbon monoxide poisoning is unlikely, there was no contact with animals, and no common-potential cause could be readily identified. Eighty-plus other children at the camp were fine, exhibiting no signs or symptoms.

The Department of Health was contacted to work with the hospitals as the investigation will continue.

Top takeaways on a mass casualty incident involving children

Here are my top takeaways from the Camp Cloverleaf incident:

  1. Make effective media communication a part of your mass casualty plan. Always be prepared for the unexpected, and anticipate the possibility of a mass casualty incident, with a solid protocol ready to go. This response has to include an effective public information program – especially when dealing with children.
  2. Bring the Health Department in early. Make an early notification to Health Department officials during mass unknown illness events. Early involvement with epidemiologist is important to help curb potential spread and tamp rampant rumors. 

What happens next: While I type this from the scene, the situation is very early on and will result in an upcoming after-action process including EMS, the local hospitals, the Health Department, 911 dispatch, Emergency Management and others.

This is yet another situation in a rural community taxing limited resource departments.

Additional resources on mass casualty transport

Learn more about mass casualty response with these resources from FireRescue1 and EMS1.

About the author
Chief Marc S. Bashoor is the FireRescue1 and Fire Chief executive editor. He has served 37 years in emergency services, including six-plus years as chief of the Prince George’s County Maryland Fire/EMS Department and five years as emergency manager in Mineral County West Virginia. Chief Bashoor assisted the NFPA with fire service missions in Brazil and China, and has presented at many industry conferences and trade shows. He has contributed to several industry publications. He is a member of the editorial advisory board and can be reached at marc.bashoor@firerescue1.com, on Twitter @ChiefBashoor or on Facebook.

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Thanks! You've been successfully signed up for the EMS1 Member Newsletter!

Copyright © 2018 EMS1.com. All rights reserved.