Thursday, July 31, 2008

The monthly drill

Every month we are required to hold an emergency response drill for training the fire and trauma teams. There are many challenges down here to dealing with emergencies. First of all, none of us are professional fire fighters or paramedics. Some get some training in pre-deployment sessions held in Colorado but for most of us, it's all on-site and on the job training.

We're also faced with unique environmental challenges - how often do emergency responders back home have to deal with rescuing a victim in -80F temps in the dark? SCBA gear freezes stiff, we can't take our AEDs outside, O2 tubing becomes brittle and breaks if a patient requires oxygen outside.

And the station design challenges here are just as ideosyncratic. Our exercises yesterday focused on confined space rescues. We were divided into two groups and one was involved in rescuing someone from one of the ice tunnels, narrow corridors carved into the ice for water and sewer pipes. And the exercise that I took part in had a scenario of rescuing someone from the subfloor of the station, an unpleasant but likely situation that could certainly happen.

We met in the gym for a outline of the plan and discussion of the safety aspects of the extraction.

Our victim, Nathan the IT guru, was already conveniently strapped to a backboard and the fire and trauma team members just had to negotiate the obstacles in the cramped space.

They had to organize into teams to lift the board with victim and manuever around the crawl space. There were some awkward tight spots where the victim was handed off to another set of team members.

It's not easy carrying a guy while on your knees ducking to avoid hitting your head on metal beams. And it's a bit dusty and cold down there too - we were all covered in old drywall dust.

The end is in sight for Nathan as he's being prepared to be lifted up out the hatch in the floor of the music room.

It was a good exercise to get us familiar with the bowels of our station and the difficulties we might have if faced with an emergency down there. And it was a nice change from having a fire to put out and an injured hypothermic patient to load up in a Dr. Down bag and a sled.


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