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Mock disaster helps prepare personnel

Fake plane crash involves all emergency responders

  VIDEO    – Emergency services personnel were put to the test on May 27 during a mock disaster staged at Paradise Valley Exhibition Grounds to help train first responders and prepare the city for the real thing.

With a 20-foot section of large metal culvert piping acting as a fuselage, and a cast of bloodied and gored volunteers acting as victims, with makeup and clothing from Vancouver Coastal Health and St. John Ambulance, Powell River emergency crews responded to the mock airplane crash as if it were the real thing. Having “dazed” and “injured” survivors wandering around the crash site and huddling in the wrecked fuselage helped add to the realism of the scenario and forced emergency crews to try and stay calm and organized amid the chaos.

Fire and Emergency Services, Powell River RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) and Powell River Search and Rescue all arrived on site, each with a role to play. The fire department put out the fake fire and dealt with the fake oil spills. RCMP interviewed survivors and made sure that everyone on the flight list was accounted for. Medics triaged the wounded and attended to those who needed immediate help, while search and rescue looked for people who had wandered into the woods. Even the coroner showed up on the scene to deal with the dead from the crash, played by mannequins.

Real life threw a couple of curveballs at the crews to keep things interesting. First of all the weather did not cooperate kindly and a substantial downpour added to the challenge. And then just as Powell River Fire and Rescue were to show up on the scene, firefighters had to attend a real fire alarm at Rodmay Heritage Hotel. Although that alarm turned out to be a non-situation, it removed them from the mock disaster and left Malaspina Volunteer Fire Department to take the reins, a scenario that would be entirely possible in a real disaster situation.

This year Powell River General Hospital played a larger role in the drill, filling its emergency room with staff and treating the fake wounded as far as they could. Nurses, doctors and support staff organized proper medical equipment, patients were sent where they needed to be based on their injuries and general organized chaos took over the hospital. Even those who would have needed surgery were prepped for it, throwing off the ruse just before they would go under the knife.

“I think it was really amazing, for one thing, how many of the staff, because it was voluntary, showed up...and how enthusiastically they did their work,” said Lu Wuthrich, acute services manager. “We learned a lot and I think we’ll feel much better going forward, feel well prepared.”

At the end of the event all those who took part met for a debriefing at Powell River Recreation Complex to discuss what went right, what went wrong, what they learned and what needs to change. Doug Nauer, PEP director, said that aside from a few glitches, all the departments taking part felt the response went well and that the exercise was a worthwhile event for everyone involved.

“Generally speaking...almost all of the departments had a positive feel about it,” said Nauer. “It was a great training exercise for most people who wouldn’t normally get the chance.”