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When Disaster Strikes, SCU EMTs Respond

A woman with a worried look hurried up to the nearest person in uniform, asking if everything was all right. Almost on cue, another woman leaned out of a second-story window in O’Connor Hall, screaming for help. But the EMT calmly told her that this was all a simulation, and that no one was really injured.

Every year, SCU’s Emergency Medical Services holds a mass casualty incident (MCI) with a certain scenario designed to test the EMTs response ability in the event of a disaster. Between the EMTs, “patients,” and other staff members on hand, nearly 100 people participated in this year’s MCI, which simulated a massive earthquake, on Saturday, May 1.

The purpose of this event was “to prove that we are well trained and well versed in how to handle a mass casualty with multiple patients and injuries,” said SCU EMS Assistant Director Kelly Fletcher. Additionally, Fletcher said that it also would “demonstrate how highly competent our EMTs are.”

Over the 13 years since SCU’s EMS was founded, by students, about 40 EMTs have developed a consistent system for responding to disaster. When a disaster is first reported, a phone tree is activated that directs all EMTs to Cowell Health Center. From there, they move to wherever they are needed. In the case of this simulation, O’Connor Hall was the main disaster site, and 63 patients (student volunteers) awaited medical attention. Officers of the Santa Clara Police and Fire Departments were in attendance as observers, along with a student from U.C. Berkeley studying our program in order to start one at his own campus.

Triage teams were the first to respond to the variety of patients and injuries, and proceeded to sort patients based on their level of injury, according to triage officer Cristina Sansone. Patients who were red-flagged needed immediate attention, while those in yellow could receive delayed help, and those in green had only suffered minor injuries. The empty black section was reserved for the morgue.

Fletcher detailed the remaining steps; an extrication team then carried patients out of the building, starting with the most severely injured and working from there. Section leaders would delegate medical attention once the patients were safely out, and treatment EMTs would then take care of them as necessary.

Two “victims,” senior Allison Terry and junior Josh Goldberg, along with the other 61 patients, were volunteers, and both affirmed the idea that “they [the EMTs] needed more patients, so I volunteered.” Sansone cheerfully reported that, due to this volunteer spirit, the number of patients had improved; saying that in years past it was tough to reach 50.

“It’s important to understand that we’re volunteers…at other schools, EMTs are paid,” said Sansone, who also praised the team, who “all have a passion for medicine, for taking care of people in the community.”

Captain Mike Sellers of the SCPD, after observing the event, said that it was “good that the campus is preparing for such a disaster” and praised their work: “Looks like they’re doing a real good job.”

Watch a slideshow of MCI simulation.

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