|July 25, 2013
Emergency training tests readiness of responders
By B.L. Azure
A severely wounded victim of the gunman is loaded onto a helicopter ambulance. (B.L. Azure photo)
PABLO — Twenty-first century America isn’t the same as your parents and grandparents’ 20th century America. Nowadays people have to be — should be — on the look out and prepared for emergency situations that were inconceivable to folks a few generations back. To expose public to the potential dangers that could happen in present-day America, including Lake County and the Flathead Indian Reservation, area law enforcement, emergency services and medical personnel staged an emergency response scenario on July 13 on the campus of Salish Kootenai College.
The exercise was centered round spring flooding with flood victims being housed at SKC. A person among the group is ill with bacterial meningitis. While dispensing medication to folks in the shelter a male arrives at the scene and demands medication, when told it was for people already in the shelter he becomes irritated and demands to be given the medication. When continually denied he soon loses patience, goes to his vehicle where he gets two pistols and returns back to the shelter where he shoots a couple of emergency responders and others. Within a few seconds law enforcement personnel arrive on scene and a gun battle ensues that results in the death of the shooter.
An emergency responder and law enforcement official take care of and query people wounded at the emergency response exercise at SKC. (B.L. Azure photo)
The purpose of the exercise was to give participants an opportunity to discuss and evaluate current concepts, plans and capabilities for response to an active shooter incident in Lake County and the Flathead Indian Reservation. The exercise emphasized the roles, responsibilities, and relationships among Lake County hospitals, tribal and public law enforcement, emergency medical services, public and tribal health departments, SKC and emergency management agencies response to a mass casualty and medical surge related consequences of an active.
Once the shooting began the SKC campus had the look of a siege. All roads and trails onto the campus were guarded by various law enforcement agencies and/or emergency responders and entrance was limited to law enforcement and emergency personnel.
Law enforcement personnel check the fatally wounded alleged gunman. (B.L. Azure photo)
At ground zero the scene was chaos with the alleged shooter lying dead and several people with various types of injuries were being treated by medical personnel with some being prepared for transfer to area hospitals. At least one patient had to be flown out by Alert Helicopter Ambulance of Kalispell to area hospitals.
“The reports are that the exercise went well,” said Barb Plouffe, Tribal Health and Human Services Community Health Division manager. “There is some room for improvement but that’s why we do these things.”
Emergencies do happen during mock emergencies. While conducting the emergency exercise two participants, a Lifeflight helicopter from Missoula had to be dispatched to an actual accident scene and one of the Ronan ambulances was dispatched to a vehicle accident at the Charlo junction of U.S. 93 and Montana 212 south of Ronan.
There was a lot of well done acting provided by volunteers of the mock emergency situation at SKC. (B.L. Azure photo)
St. Luke Community Health Care of Ronan and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center of Polson sponsored and hosted the emergency response exercise.
According to Camilla Yamada, manager of plant operations at St. Joseph, the emergency response exercise was a good example of two competing hospitals coming together for the mutual benefit of the public.
“The important thing is our two hospitals working together along with the other emergency responders,” Yamada said at the emergency scenario-planning meeting. “We have a wide range of people here today, including the responders and administrators. Each hospital recognizes the importance of the mutual training. This exercise and planning for the summer exercise is important.”
The wounded were laid out on color-coded tarps that helped separate the various levels of wounds. (B.L. Azure photo)
Linda Cross, educational coordinator/nurse supervisor at St Luke, said hospital preparedness for catastrophic emergencies is very important and that the training.
“People must be prepared for emergencies not just the institutions,” Cross said. The hands-on exercise will gauge the public’s preparedness for an emergency.
Participants in the emergency exercise, included the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Tribal Health and Human Services Department and Law Enforcement Department, Salish Kootenai College, St. Joseph Medical Center, St. Luke Community Hospital, Lake County Sheriff’s Department, St. Ignatius, Ronan and Polson ambulances, Lake County Search and Rescue, Lake County Public Health Department, Ronan and Polson fire departments, Polson Police Department, Lake County Emergency Management Office, Kalispell Alert helicopter, Kicking Horse Job Corps and a whole bunch of volunteers.