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Agencies train to handle mass casualty incidents

Protocol during a mass casualty incident (MCI) was the topic of training at a Jan. 8 training that served nearly 80 people representing 12 different emergency entities and offices, most of which operate within Archuleta County.

The training was the first of its kind to include so many entities in the known history of Archuleta County.

The training followed guidelines set out by the Southwest Regional Emergency and Trauma Advisory Council (SWRETAC), which serves five counties in southwest Colorado and is the same entity that furnished Archuleta County with one of six trailers to help agencies treat up to 25 major trauma patients during an MCI (vehicle accidents, floods, building collapses, etc.).

The trailers were assembled with grant money.

The training allowed the emergency entities to work together and learn a single approach to effectively deal with an MCI and to use the trailer and its contents in an effective manner should an MCI occur in Archuleta County or personnel from Archuleta County be called to help with an MCI elsewhere in the region.

The training covered such things as setting up an incident command, properly communicating during an incident, triaging patients, administering medical care and transporting patients to the hospital in a combination of classroom and hands-on training involving tours of the trailer and triage practice.

Trainees also heard a guest speaker from Vail discuss an MCI that occurred on I-70 and how the event was handled.

“I’d say it was a huge success,” said Pagosa Fire Protection District Chief Ron Thompson.

EMS’s Molly Osmera, one of the organizers who brought the training to Archuleta County, said they are already receiving requests for additional trainings within some of the agencies and suggestions have been made to make the system even more effective.

Dave Bronson, also of EMS, echoed that the event was a success and that the multiple agencies taking part allowed it to be deemed a success.

“It ultimately allows for the job to get done efficiently,” Osmera said.

Osmera said the next steps include taking a consolidated version of the day-long training to the various agencies’ full staffs, congregating the agencies to run over “tabletop” hypothetical MCIs, and staging a training exercise that would provide hands on training from start to end of an MCI.

Osmera also highlighted that the training laid the foundation for future trainings to continue to build and refresh skills, as well as continuously training new individuals within the agencies.

In addition to building skills, Thompson, Osmera, Bronson and EMS’s Deb Calavan (the other organizer of the training) said the training fosters relationships and builds confidence between the various agencies.

Thompson said having those connections with the other agencies allows for an increased level of “confidence, camaraderie, ability (and) capability.”

Those included in the training were EMS, PFPD, Colorado State Patrol, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, ACSO Department of Emergency Management, Search and Rescue, Mounted Search and Rescue, the Red Cross, Colorado Mounted Rangers, Upper San Juan Search and Rescue, Coroner Carl Macht, and a chaplain, as well as two members of the high school’s firefighting class.

Instructors for the course hailed from throughout the region, including from Mercy Region Medical Center, Durango Fire and Rescue and Eagle County.

randi@pagosasun.com