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Emergency units respond
to 911 Mock Disaster Call

The Life Flight helicopter arrives on the mock disaster scene to practice transport of critically injured victims.


QRU member Chris Anders helps package this critically injured boy scout. Bruce Davis suffered from head and neck injuries.


EMT Kristie Roesner and Cadet Firefighters BJ Shoupe (left) and Rich Johnson help transport a patient.

Firefighters work to extricate victims in the car.

Story & photos.0
by Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder
November 5, 1998

How's this for a Saturday morning mass-casualty training session? At 10:02 a.m. both Seeley Lake Quick Response Unit and Seeley Lake Volunteer firefighters get a page from 911 "Seeley Lake QRU, Seeley Lake Fire respond to a bus versus car on north Boy Scout Road. Multiple injuries."

At 10:05, Life Flight and four ambulances from Missoula are dispatched to the mock accident.

At 10:20 the first fire truck arrives on the scene with a wrecked bus and a car that had apparently rolled several times after striking the bus. The bus is on fire with an unconscious driver, an injured chaperon, a frantic Boy Scout leader, and his troop 20 injured and 1 dead.

The car had five drunk teenagers in it. One was thrown from the vehicle and was bleeding to death. The driver is conscious, injured, drunk and confused. The 16 year-old girl in the backseat is dead. Two of the drunk teenage girls ran away because they were afraid they were going to get in trouble.

When the ambulance arrives at 10:23, the fire department is extinguishing the fire, checking on the victims in the car and sizing up the injuries on the bus.

QRU Chief Cindy Lewis, Fire Chief Jim White, additional QRU members and firefighters, two highway patrolman, Richard Hader and Shawn Grimes, Sheriff Deputy Scott Newell and Federal USFS Marshall Ron Ogden arrive on the scene.

Search and Rescue is dispatched at 10:30 to search for the missing kids.

Fire Chief Jim White takes the role of Incident Commander, and begins delegating duties to everyone on the scene. He calls 911 and gives them an update. He has Saint Patrick and Community hospitals alerted so they can prepare for the wounded.

After the incident is sized up, there are 29 patients: Two designated black, two missing, eight red, ten yellow and seven green. The patients are assigned colors according to the seriousness of their injuries.

Black designates the dead.

Red designates the patients who have life-threatening critical injuries such as breathing difficulties, uncontrolled or severe bleeding, shock or severe burns.

Yellow designates patients with unstable or potentially unstable injuries such as burns without airway problems, major or multiple bone or joint injuries or back injuries with or without spinal cord damage.

Green designates the "walking wounded" patients with minor painful, swollen, deformed extremities and psychological trauma. These patients are to be isolated from the other patients to limit their psychological trauma as well as to keep the scene clear.

Each patient must be assessed twice to insure no mistakes are made. There are 13 local Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) on the scene. The patients outnumber them.

At 10:29, Life Flight arrives with a doctor and a nurse. Soon after, Dr. Ben Lindeman from the Seeley Swan Medical Center arrives.

At 10:41 four Missoula ambulances roll in. A fifth ambulance from Missoula rolls in a few minutes later. There are now 28 medical personnel and 12 firefighters working to treat and transport patients.

During the chaos, three bystanders are arrested by law enforcement because they would not stay out of the way.

By 12:12, all the patients have been transported and everyone starts to rethink and assess what they did during the crisis. "How did we do?" is what they discussed during the meeting after the kids were full of hot chocolate and rolls and on their way home.

"I think it was great, " QRU Chief Cindy Lewis said. "There was a lot to think about and take care of. I didn't sleep the night before or the night after it was over. It was tough. I hope we never have a situation like this, but I think we all did a good job."

Fire Chief Jim White said that he was pleased with the training, and he also said that there is a lot to be responsible for on a scene such as this.

"We had missing kids; there were bystanders who got in the way. We had a bus on fire and we had to extricate a couple of kids out of the car. It was a stressful training session, and I think we all did a great job."

Seldom does a scene like this come off without a few glitches. First of all the bus that was supposed to be coming from Missoula didn't make it. Apparently the guy who was using it for storage didn't have it cleaned out.

And in Seeley, we have our own special glitches. Bill Gallea on his four-wheeler with a dog-sled team of around 10 dogs comes racing through the scene, not once, but twice. The scene was set up right on his dog trail.

Then when one of the Missoula ambulances, complete with Boy Scout patients, broke down on Highway 83, one of the Emergency Medical Technicians (we won't mention any names) kept the patients calm by using an inflated rubber glove on his head to imitate a chicken. There's nothing like making patients with head injuries and broken ribs laugh when you are patiently waiting for a tow truck to haul your emergency vehicle to town!

The patients and the Seeley QRU members started preparing at 7:30 a.m. that morning. Derek and Mary Lou Ellinghouse helped the QRU members apply cuts, bruises, protruding bones, glass and of course supply a bag of fresh, fake blood to each of the patients. (Many of the Boy Scouts begged to repeat this make-up procedure for Halloween)

This training took weeks of planning by the QRU and help from many of the local residents. Al Woodward of Clearwater Towing towed and rolled the vehicle for the wreck. (he also towed in the broken-down ambulance) On a last-minute notice, Diane Yiengst provided the bus. Jack and Yvonne Mackie were great bystandersthe kind that have to be arrested and removed from the scene. (Even law enforcement practice arresting people) Bus Driver Fred Hartman, the Seeley Swan High School Senior Priority studentsAmber Wold, Matt Brown, Cedar Rogers, Kristy Pohlman and Nikki Harnisch, and Boy Scout Troop Leader Wade Herbert and the Troop made the multiple injuries possible.

Here's what a few of the Boy Scout's had to say about the training:

"On Saturday, October 24, the Bear Scouts helped the QRU. I was a DOA. I had blood all over me and on the bus seat and floor. My whole shirt was full of fake blood. After we were done I got to go in an ambulance with Simon. It was fun, but the ambulance broke down." Written by Colton Patrick Dunlap.

"We pretended that we were in a bad bus wreck. I broke my wrist and cut my head. There was a lot of blood. It would be good to know First Aid." Written by Patrick Jones.

"The Bears had an awesome weekend. On Saturday we helped the QRU with rescue drill. We were fixed up with injuries and rode in an ambulance. Life Flight and ambulances came from Missoula." Written by Stephen James Maciag.

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