Evaluations at Disaster Drill Help Ambulance Corps Improve Service
The Adams County, Pa., Ambulance Association has annually staged and organized a mock disaster for Annie Warner Hospital.
A committee appointed by the association president, Eugene Shaffer of the Biglerville Fire Company Ambulance Corps was chaired by Rodney Noel of the Bonneauville Fire Company Ambulance Corps. The committee, which has a representative from each ambulance corps in the association, planned this year’s mock disaster with some innovative features.
Adams County had several bomb threats in the Gettysburg area in late 1975 and early 1976. Keeping this in mind, the committee felt that we should plan our disaster along this line. We felt the Gettysburg area was the most ideal area to stage the disaster and also keeping in mind Warner Hospital’s part in the drill.
Need for lighting
Previous disaster drills were staged during the day or early evening hours when lighting plants were not needed. This year, we felt that by staging the drill at night, the responding companies would need to provide lighting plants, as well as cope with problems they might face without natural light. Only the committee knew the time, place and type of mock disaster planned, and fire and ambulance companies were alerted as they are for any alarm.
The committee felt that the responding ambulance corps, rescue, and fire units should benefit from the drill through evaluation of their performance so they could better prepare themselves for a real disaster.
Preparation for the disaster drill started last February with the committee deciding to contact either the local schools or theological seminary with the idea of using the students as victims and a large campus building as the scene. Clarence Benson, administrator of the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary was asked for use of a building and personnel. He gave the committee tentative approval which was later confirmed by the seminary board.
May 3 was selected as the date for the disaster with the exact time between 2000 and 2100 hours.
The Adams County Council of Emergency Health Services (ACCEHS) was asked to name a subcommittee to work with the association committee in preparing for the drill.
The ACCEHS, headed by its chairman, Jeffrey Naugle of the Gettysburg Fire Company, was asked to help in the preparation of victims and drill evaluation. It was suggested that evaluators be obtained from companies not participating in the disaster.
The evaluators selected by the ambulance association were Chief Robert Little of the York Fire Department, Chief Ivan Bretzman of the Citizens Fire Company of Mount Holly Springs, Fire Commissioner Roy Miller of the Hanover Fire Department, and Chief James W. Cutchall of the Fayetteville Fire Department.
The ACCEHS chose EMTs and training coordinators outside of Adams County as evaluators.
The committee felt that the communications center is often taken for granted during a disaster even though it is essential in dispatching units and controlling communications. Because of this, Boh Logan, a civil defense director in Cecil County, Md., was asked to sit at the control center during the disaster drill and make an evaluation of the communications.
Photo by Don Schmitt.
At 1600 hours on May 3, the association committee, with the help of the ACCEHS, prepared “victims” for their part. Most of the victims who would encounter fractures or excessive bleeding were made up with plastic kits while other victims, including a maternity were tagged with their conditions.
The site for the mock bomb explosion was a second-floor classroom in the three-story, brick administration building at the Lutheran Theological Seminary. The committee placed 25 victims in this room. The conditions of the victims in the room ranged from a simple fracture to five fatalities. Other victims on the first and second floors were scattered around with various injuries.
Toxic chemicals problem
On the third floor, there was a storage room marked “hazardous chemicals” where victims were trapped. The stairway to the third floor was blocked, so the only way to enter was through the windows.
A committee member was in this room and any fire fighter or ambulance corpsman who entered this room without self-contained breathing apparatus was immediately ruled a vict im. To add to the reality of the situation, an auto was parked in the parking lot next to the building with a victim slumped over the steering wheel and tagged “possible coronary.” Smoke bombs were lit outside the window of the room marked hazardous toxic materials to further simulate the condition.
The committee met with the evaluators at 1900 hours, gave them a tour of the scene and discussed the evaluation procedure. The committee also mentioned the units responding on the first alarm and the units available for the chief-in-charge to call for assistance.
Two types of evaluations
The ambulance corps evaluators received evaluation sheets while the overall operations evaluators were asked to write their own evaluations and to feel free to roam the scene as they wished to make better judgments.
Chief Little’s photographer took pictures for the evaluators to study, while Don Schmitt, training coordinator of the ACCEHS, took pictures for the county organization.
At 2031 hours, Chairman Noel telephoned the Adams County Control Center to dispatch all county ambulances and designated fire equipment to respond to a mock disaster—bomb explosion—at the administration building of the Lutheran Theoligical Seminary.
—Photos by Don Schmitt. Adams County. Pa., EMS Council
County control immediately dispatched all county ambulances and Company 1 of the Gettysburg Fire Department.
At 2033, the dispatcher called by radio for a second dispatcher to report to the control center.
Company 1 responded with Chief Gerald White, 1st Assistant Chief Robert Plank, two engines, a ladder truck, a rescue truck and two ambulances, arriving on the scene at 2035. Engine 11 laid a 2 1/2-inch supply to the scene. After a quick size-up, White set up his command post at Engine 11 and requested control to dispatch Company 2, Fairfield, with an engine and rescue, and Company 4, Cashtown, to respond with an engine.
At 2039, Carroll County Company 5, Taneytown, was requested to send one ambulance to stand by at the Littlestown engine house and Cumberland County Company 36, Mount Holly Springs, was asked to send one ambulance to stand by at the York Springs engine house. It might be noted that 11 of the county’s 13 ambulances and the Emmitsburg ambulance from Frederick County, Md., responded to the scene. It was necessary to have backup ambulances available for calls in the participating companies’ territories.
At 2042, White alerted Warner Hospital to be prepared for approximately 45 victims. The hospital immediately called all personnel to report to the hospital and set up procedures to handle the victims. In an actual emergency of this type, victims would also be taken to neighboring hospitals and physicians would be sent to the scene.
Lighting plants requested
At 2047, White requested lighting plants from Company 7, Bendersville; Company 19, Bonneauville; Company 17, McSherrystown; and a rescue unit from Company 13, New Oxford. He also asked for Company 6, Biglerville, to send an engine to stand by at the Company 1 station. White also requested assistance from local fire police as well as the Gettysburg Police Department to assist with traffic control.
At 2053 hours, Gettysburg ambulance 1A made the initial transport to the hospital.
At 2054, the civil defense director arrived on the scene and immediately contacted the state civil defense in Harrisburg and told of the progress of the drill.
All victims removed
At 2202, White began to release units from the scene as all victims were determined to have been found and taken to the hospital.
At 2215, the evaluators met with the committee and were asked to send the evaluations to Ken Miller of the York Springs Fire Company, vice president of the Adams County Ambulance Association.
The evaluation committee decided to turn the ambulance evaluations over to each head of each ambulance corps. By doing this, the corps chief could see where his corps needed more training.
A seminar with slides and talks by the evaluators was planned for a session with the county association at a later date. Among the problems we found, besides basic fireground errors, was lack of control of the number of units on the air—units cutting each other out and some units without a secondary radio frequency.
All ambulances had direct communications with the hospital, thus often causing confusion when more than one was trying to transmit to the hospital.
A unit which was not alerted but possibly could have been, especially if another bomb was expected, was the special explosive detachment from the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg.
The Adams County Ambulance Association hopes to again have another mock disaster in 1977, probably different in type, but with the same objective—to better prepare for the real thing.