Cayman’s emergency services held a mock mass casualty exercise at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex Friday night – the culmination of a week of disaster preparation work with Hazard Management Cayman Islands and the Pan American Health Organization.
In the scenario, the stadium stands collapse during a major sporting event, and hundreds are injured or buried alive. Responders face an unknown number of victims trapped inside and under rubble – many are injured, some critical, some dead.
Fire and Emergency Medical Service staff go in to assess the situation. After securing the scene, they give the OK for other service agencies to go in.
The “victims” in the mock exercise cry out to get the attention of the emergency services. Rescuers start bringing the injured from the stadium, some are limping, others are laid out on stretchers and some are carried onto the track and field area to be treated by emergency technicians and doctors in order of the severity of their injuries.
Emergency vehicles from the ambulance, police and fire services pour into the area. Triage trailers are set up, along with a mobile portable lighting system.
While the evening-long mock exercise was devoid of actual spectators, responders in the scenario treated the scene as though hundreds of people were converging on the scene, looking for relatives and friends, or trying to find out what was happening.
Police Inspector Ian Yearwood, one of the instructors on the course, briefed 40 responders taking part shortly before the mock drill began. Some responders played the “victims,” others the rescuers.
“The real aim of the course is to get them to understand the concept of working together – command, control and coordination,” said Inspector Richard Barrow, another instructor. “The big exercise brought the five-day course together. Responders got a chance to work by night and day to see challenges and how to overcome them.”
Going forward, he said, there would be continual training.
Responders had trained for five days for the mock exercise, said Peter Burgess, the Pan American Health Organization instructor assisting with the exercise.
Friday night’s exercise lasted until the small hours of Saturday morning, following a number of other mock incident exercises during the week, including a gang fight, a possible explosion, a chemical spill and a collapsed structure.
“Participants have shown a keen interest in the course, and they are starting to see the benefits of having an organized mass causality organizational structure.” Mr. Burgess said.
Mr. Burgess said the course was both theoretical and practical, with the practical sessions reinforcing what was taught in class.
“The training fostered lots of camaraderie and everyone has started to appreciate each other for the job they do. That’s the main factor coming out of this training,” he added.
He explained that when everyone appreciates and understands each other’s roles, when they get to a scene they can work together, coordinate, plan and execute their duties in an orderly way.
Eziethamae Bodden, a responder in training, said the course was very educational and helped everybody on the course prepare for any major incident.
“I think it is beneficial for the Cayman Islands. It gives one comfort to know that there are trained people in our community, that if something does happen, we can spring into action,” she said.
Mr. Burgess said he was keen to see the training continue. Inspector Yearwood said two annual courses, in April and October, are planned.
The course commenced last Monday with a number of lectures and presentations in mass casualty management. Responders covered topics such as communications, incident command, hurricanes and outbreaks of illnesses like cholera or Ebola.