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September 16, 2016

SD fire, EMS practice disaster scenarios

By Shannon Marvel
The American News

ABERDEEN, S.D. — Around 40 emergency responders from Aberdeen, Watertown, Sioux Falls and Rapid City were at the Brown County Fairgrounds Wednesday and Thursday for training.

Jon Groen, response team coordinator with the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, said the training was for the "best of the best" and included firefighters, paramedics and disaster response teams from across the state.

"We rotate the host city because it's so much work to put this all together," Groen said.

He estimated the training cost to be around $20,000.

A part of the drill, those taking the training had to respond to a simulated emergency that included both a hazardous material and a tornado. It involved emergency responders dealing with the aftermath of a tornado blowing a vehicle into a concrete structure that was used to store chemicals. Under 2,400 pounds of concrete was a barely visible vehicle with a "person" trapped inside.

Groen said the scenario required different specialized skills from responders that could be used in a variety of real emergency situations.

The chemicals were ones that could be found in many agriculture businesses or industrial areas. When they mix or are released, there can be a potentially dangerous chemical reaction that puts those in the area at risk.

In an incident where a patient is pinned by a vehicle that is surrounded by potentially hazardous chemicals or gas emissions, responders must secure the scene before attempting to contact the victim.

"The haz mat team had to go in and solve that first. Then our rescue teams could go in and start work to get to the patient inside the car. We also got disaster medical specialists that are part of the team in Aberdeen. They were able to practice their skills," Groen said.

To simulate having to perform a leg amputation on the victim, the medical specialists used a saw to cut through the leg of an adult pig.

The simulation invoked memories for many of the emergency responders, including Groen.

"I was on Sioux Falls Fire Department, and I was Spencer when the tornado came," Groen said, referring to the 1998 tornado that decimated the small town in the southeast region of the state.

"And when we got there, there were semi trucks in trees," he said.

But that's what emergency responders live for, said Mariah Mougey, a paramedic with Aberdeen Fire and Rescue.

"This is what we love. We're a little morbid in that sense, but we're all excited about it," she said.

She was able to observe medical specialists at work during the training. It was a precursor to the next round of training for the aspiring medical specialist.

To become a certified medical specialist, Mougey must pass a two-week long class.

"I'm going to Georgia in a couple weeks to take that class. Just watching them have to crawl into there to take care of the patient, starting IVs, giving pain medications. They just used a saw to saw off a limb in there. I'm just really excited about the future of that aspect of my training," she said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2016 the American News