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Mont. first responders hold MCI hazmat drill

Training at the Mineral County Airport involved several departments and agencies dealing with a patient surge


Mineral Community Hospital Emergency Department.

Mineral Community Hospital/Facebook

By Monte Turner
Clark Fork Valley Press & Mineral Independent

MINERAL COUNTY, Mont. — A mass casualty exercise was recently held at the Mineral County Airport, allowing participants an opportunity to evaluate current response concepts, plans and capabilities for response to an Incident with a chemical component.

The exercise was developed by the Mineral County LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committee) and the Department of Emergency Services (DES). The exercise and materials were produced with input, advice, and assistance from the LEPC Exercise Planning Team, which followed the guidance set forth by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ( DHS ) Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP).

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, quite possibly the largest emergency preparedness exercise in the county commenced. While the airport was the location of the simulated accident, personnel from Mineral County DES, Frenchtown Rural Fire District, West End/St. Regis/ Superior Volunteer Fire Departments, Mineral County Highway Patrol, Mineral Community Hospital, Superior Area Ambulance Service, Montana Department of Transportation, Montana State Disaster and Emergency Services and the Life Flight network were on location or responding to the tarmac.

Less than an hour later, Mineral Community Hospital’s ER was bustling with 13 actor-patients with various degrees of needed care. Simulated life flight was involved along with every ambulance in the county and Frenchtown responded to do what was needed for patient care and placement.

Amy Parks, Mineral County Disaster Emergency Services, explained the basics of patient placement.

“Everyone is transferred to the hospital from here, ( Mineral County Airport ) and obviously those with the worst injuries were transferred first. But MCH may not have the resources for this level of emergency so they are working to find medical facilities that can accept the patients. The EMTs describe the injuries to the ER through radio communication, even cell phones at times, so they have a good idea of what to expect. And that also gives them a heads-up on the care that will be required so they start calling medical facilities. This is all live play by physically calling and talking in real-time.”

Parks said that this exercise is considered a medical surge for MCH and they were using the internal emergency procedures they have trained for.

A debriefing was held that evening and an AAR (After Action Report) meeting and documentation will be soon while it remains fresh in everyone’s mind. All who participated received a form for them to fill out on how they feel it went and what improvements do they recommend. The AAR discussion will be to discuss what worked, what could have been done more efficiently and what do they, collectively, feel needs more training.

Parks concluded with, “We’ll pick up with the known information from this exercise and we’ll continue to play it out at a later time.”

Regular meetings of the Mineral County LEPC are held on the first Thursday of each month at 4 p.m. in the county commissioners’ conference room. The public is invited.

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