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Training with a hope of never using it

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Shane P. Hill
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Participating in a mass casualty incident exercise is essentially training for something we hope never happens. Generally the outcome, regardless of how well the training goes, does not include accolades and awards for a job well done. So the greatest asset to gain is the knowledge of what works and what doesn't to prepare for an unwanted event.

For the 182nd Airlift Wing what works is the knowledge that we can rely on our neighbors and they in turn can rely on us if ever needed in crisis, like the one simulated here at the Greater Peoria Regional Airport on Oct. 4, 2008. During the exercise the 182nd along with several civilian agencies, participated in a mock commercial airline crash with 51 people on board.

The civilian organizations involved included the Greater Peoria Regional Airport Authority, Peoria Area Emergency Medical Services, Peoria County Emergency Medical Association, City of Peoria Emergency Medical Services, Advanced Medical Transport, Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink), Limestone Fire Department, Bartonville Fire Department, Logan-Trivoli Fire Department, Timber-Hollis Fire Department, Peoria Fire Department, OSF St. Francis Regional Medical Emergency Response Team, American Red Cross, and Delta Airlines.

In the scenario the 182nd acted as the primary response to the crash which utilized a C-130 that simulated a civilian aircraft. While the Greater Peoria Regional Airport Authority would be the ultimate authority over a crash, the 182nd Fire Department is the emergency services organization in charge of the airport, said Lt. Col. Kate Socha, 182nd Mission Support Group Vice Commander. The 182nd initial role also included key elements of the Emergency Operations Center and assisting as evaluators on the Exercise Evaluation Team.

And while the primary goal of the 182nd is the assistance of civilian personnel during a crisis, working with the civilian authorities helped 182nd personnel satisfy annual requirements of the Air Force for disaster preparedness.

"In any type of emergency or incident you want to practice so that when the real thing happens you can find things that go wrong ahead of time and hopefully those mistakes won't be repeated," said Socha.

Troy Erbentrout, Disaster Manager for the OSF St. Francis Medical Center, who helped organize the mass casualty drill agreed that practice and collaboration are what make future incidents manageable.

"I think everyone did really well there was just some communication gaps which with every drill communication is a big problem," said Erbentrout. "The reason to do a drill is to find short falls and fix them."

While the drill may have had communication short falls they were not noticed by the many civilian volunteers who played the crash victims.

"They did a good job, they came right over and they got to me right away. More people should get involved so they can get an accurate feel of the magnitude of what the responders do," said Patricia Ricca, from Bartonville. Ricca was participating in the crash as part of her emergency medical technician class.

Ricca and the other civilian volunteers played victims who were placed around the accident scene. Initially, the 182nd Fire Department responded in for fire suppression and then began to triage the victims and called in for other agencies to help. As the scenario unfolded, various agencies provided manpower and transportation
of patients to local hospitals for treatment.

The Scenario lasted approximately 90 minutes and in the end resulted in the mock victims, equipment and personnel being in the places they were needed. It ended with all the agencies involved having a better idea of their role and having data and lessons to learn from. And while there is really no measurement of perfection or a passing grade when it comes to such an event, hopefully all parties involved had an opportunity to learn. After all, hopefully we are prepared for this to never happen.