LEWISBURG, WV (WOAY) – Autumn Spears, a third-year student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), was one of 26 students and four staff members from the school who volunteered as role players in a mass casualty exercise at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, a national Scouting center near Glen Jean, W.Va.
“I had facial trauma consistent with a basilar skull fracture,” Spears said. “I was triaged in the field by medics, who placed a label around my wrist to mark me as a patient who needed immediate life-saving emergency care. I was taken by military gurney to a red tarp where patients waited for transport to the appropriate facilities. Medics then carried me and placed me in a military ambulance with three other victims.”
The exercise, which simulated the aftermath of a vehicle-borne attack similar to incidents that have occurred in cities such as Nice, France, and Barcelona, Spain, took place July 20, one day before the start of the World Scout Jamboree. It was intended as a training opportunity for the Summit Bechtel emergency and medical staff who would come to the aid of more than 44,000 visiting members of the world Scouting community if a real attack were to occur.
Spears, who was outfitted with moulage to mimic the injuries she was assigned, was one of 90 role players from various organizations who participated in the exercise. She said she found the event educational in the way it depicted team dynamics that are critical for members of the medical profession to master.
“It was a great opportunity to witness multiple agencies working together as a group,” she said. “It was interesting to see how the triage process works, how responders separate the victims and decide who needs to be taken where and by which method of transport.”
Tracy Corbin, medical education coordinator for Jan-Care Ambulance Service, which helped organize the mass casualty exercise, said other “injuries” sustained in the mock vehicle attack included long-bone fractures, blood loss and multisystem trauma – and,
for a victim trapped under an overturned bus, a pelvis fracture. A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter transported victims to Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beaver, W.Va., and in a real incident, the wounded would then be distributed among West Virginia’s major trauma centers.
Chris Pankey, Ph.D., a WVSOM assistant professor of endocrinology and reproduction, also portrayed a victim and was among those who were flown out.
“It was a great learning experience for the trainees and for the volunteers,” Pankey said. “There’s not a lot of exposure to events like this, so it was valuable to show the flow of events that would be required if this sort of attack were to actually happen.”
Janet Hinton, WVSOM’s director of rural outreach, said the exercise allowed medical students to see firsthand the role emergency workers play when a large-scale disaster occurs.
“It’s important for our students to know what victims experience before they arrive at the emergency room and to know what EMS workers do prior to arrival,” she said.
Other organizations participating in the exercise included the 118th Mobile Medical Battalion, West Virginia Army National Guard Aviation, the Region I Medical Command System, Raleigh General Hospital, the Mount Hope Fire Department, Jamboree EMS, Summit EMS, the West Virginia Public Service Training Network, Corps Solutions, the Kanawha County Ambulance Authority, West Virginia Memorial Tunnel and the University of Charleston.