The scanner radio traffic was heavy Wednesday evening at about 7:00 PM. Fire fighters and ambulances were being paged out to an incident North of Adin in the Adin Pass. Medical command centers and Fire command centers were bing established and there were requests for air ambulances. This is what I heard as I stepped into my office returning from a trip to Redding. What's happening? I dare not call Modoc 911 as they are far to busy to answer my questions. This is a big one!
It was a training exercise involving Canby. Lookout Adin and Alturas first responders as well as the Highway Patrol. The training event involved a simulated 2 vehicle accident with 10 victims. The objectives were to test and train incident command systems. In fact, firefighters and ambulance crews received realistic training as well, including using "jaws" to extricate victims.
Although managers were aware of the training in advance, area firefighters and other first responders were taken by surprise. A dummy car with casualties was set up on Highway 299 in Adin Pass. Sometime around 6:30 the training started. Adin, Canby, Lookout and Alturas agencies became involved.
Most of us are quite unaware of how complex an operation of this size is. Communications between multiple agencies must be established and perhaps 30 or more people on the ground must be directed to a scene at night under difficult circumstances. These 30 people work for different agencies and each has different responsibilities. All must be co-ordinated by command centers at the scene and overseen by communications centers in different locations. Telephone calls must be made to obtain additional aid if needed, air transport must be arranged, landing zones prepared etc. Just keeping track of which hospitals are receiving which patient can become a daunting task. Who to call, when to call and how to avoid mass confusion are all important to know.
Recent events during Hurricane Katrina have publicized how important interdepartmental communications can be during a disaster. This type of training is not new to the area, but the awareness of disaster preparedness certainly was a factor in setting up this training.
Sarah Marchessault who was in training as an incident commander in Canby took charge of this incident and ran it while her boss sat by and watched. One can well imagine how difficult it could have been to manage a real disaster the first time, but word is that she did well and successfully competed her assignment.
Tony Richno, owner of North East Comm Tech in Adin was acting as Patient Transportation Group Supervisor, Linda Willowmeyer was Medical Group supervisor.
According to Dan Bouse, Director of Emergency Services for Modoc County, an exercise will take place in the Big Valley Area some time soon. This one will involve local hospitals as well and it is planned to actually bring in medical helicopters for a night landing.
It is good to know that our unsung heroes who work without us knowing much about them (unless we are actually involved in an accident) are keeping sharp and ready!