Exciting live drill highlights EMS Week 2012

POSTED: 06/21/12 1:13 PM

St. Maarten – Close to thirty emergency personnel drawn from the Fire and Ambulance Department, the Police, Red Cross and Windward Islands Emergency Medical Systems (Wiems) foundation responded to a mass casualty scene on the Pondfill on Wednesday. Their collective response formed part of a simulated disaster situation to commemorate EMS Week 2012.

Activities to highlight the importance and operations of the emergency services began on Sunday. It goes until Friday under the general theme of EMS: More than a job. A calling.

The live drill began around 9:00 a.m. within the vicinity of the Government Administration Building and the Post Office. It attracted lots of attention and also inconvenienced a few road users but according to Ambulance Department head Cylred Richardson “it is something important for St.Maarten because in the event we have these types of disasters, the players have to be able to work together. I know it was a little inconvenient for some people but this is one of our realities. The only way you can improve on it is through these types of drills.”

Wednesday’s live drill featured a multiple vehicle collision which resulted in the Fire Department having to extricate drivers from their vehicles. One SUV turned turtle as several bodies could be seen partially covered on stretchers.

Daily the police and ambulance department respond to emergency calls but whenever the calls surpass the amount of resources available to handle them, it is categorized as a disaster.

On Wednesday, they started out with a triage of the scene to determine the severity of each trauma victim’s injuries. It was all about saving life as the EMS personnel conducted a scene size up and tagged the injured based on who stood the best chances of surviving the wreckage. Some patients were tagged with a red label, others green and yellow, while a few were tagged as black.

Based on the triage system, red represents patients that require detailed medical attention; treatment and stabilization before being transported to the nearest emergency room. Yellow tagged patients are usually not considered as critical as red patients but also need urgent care. Those tagged with green are assumed to have superficial injuries and could freely move around the scene, even assisting the EMS if need be. Patients tagged black do not receive attention from EMS personnel, in most instances, their case is considered hopeless and because of the severity of their injuries, chances of survival appear minute. They are considered dead already.

“Overall the drill was exciting and showed the togetherness and teamwork among the various agencies. One of the things that was very vital was managing the scene,” Richardson commented.

The EMS chain is usually activated when the first emergency call comes into the ambulance dispatch department.  Once the caller gives an indication of how many victims were involved in the incident, the emergency dispatcher can then issue directives for private response teams to join the government agencies in heading to the scene. It is all executed with clockwork efficiency with an established protocol in place until the period of pre-hospital care ends.

According to Richardson, it was no different on Wednesday.

“This was something to test the system. As a large drill we could have even activated the hospital. In this case it was not done but we can reach to that level.”

Immediately following the exercise, a debriefing with all EMS personnel and volunteers was held. It highlighted areas that the team could improve on especially as it related to managing the scene.

“It is a moment that we will take to further sharpen and move forward. We also had a situation where Police had to exercise more control over the scene because people were crossing the boundaries and markers thereby getting in the way of the EMS personnel,” Richardson explained.
Today cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) demonstrations are being conducted simultaneously from 9.30am until 12.00pm.at three different locations, Old Fire Station Philipsburg, Le Grand Marche Bush Road, and Simpson Bay Fish Market.

EMS Week 2012 concludes on Friday with a grand parade starting at the Simpson Bay Police Station from 5:00 p.m. and ending at the Fire and Ambulance building in Cay Hill.

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