'Mass casualties' at the Fairgrounds
It was a bad accident. A car pulled in front of a school bus, which hit the van, entered a ditch, and rolled onto its side.
Both vehicles were full of people. There were 30 or 40 victims; several were killed.
Squads of law enforcement and emergency personnel from around the area responded quickly to the site.
Thankfully, it was actually a training exercise, hosted Aug. 24 by Dodge County Emergency Management and the Dodge County Sheri ’s Office at the County Fairgrounds in Kasson.
The multi-agency/multi- discipline mass casualty training exercise was meant to enhance and improve the county’s emergency response preparedness in responding to large-scale emergencies that may include large numbers of victims and fatalities.
“I’m very happy with the way it went,” Emergency Management director Matt Maas said. “I’m really happy that we were able to put it together, and even maybe more happy now that it came together, and we got it accomplished. It’s a lot of work to put something like this together.”
“I think it’s a very good exercise,” said Neil Witzel of Kasson, a role-playing bus passenger who experienced “chest pains” and a possible heart attack. “The community needs to have this done for their first responders who are EMS personnel. I was an EMS responder myself for 20 years, so this is good to see how they handle things today.” Witzel was among the many “victims” – volunteers who played their roles as injured or deceased passengers. They wore patches: black for deceased victims, red for high-priority victims. Yellow was the next priority, and green meant you could walk and thus could wait to be treated.
Some victims were taken to the “hospital” – a building on the fairgrounds - and often-hysterical “relatives” converged on the “Family Relocation Center” in another building, to get information on their loved ones.
School officials must be notified, and a resource offcer acts as laison for the school district in such situations, to help get information out to parents, Kasson-Mantorville SRO Jesse Kasel said.
School representatives, members of Dodge County Public Health, and school resource officers also would help navigate those in need.
“Everybody’s got their assigned duties,” Kasel said. “The guys on scene were communicating well with what we had.”
Evaluators recorded the performance of all those responders –from Kasson, Mantorville, Dodge Center and West Concord, Dodge County, the Mayo Emergency Communications Center, Mayo Multi-Agency Coordination Center, the Mayo One helicopter, and the Southeast Minnesota Emergency Medical Services Board.
Information will be shared with the responders.
“That’ll help us gauge things that we need to do more training on,” Maas said. “If we had a weakness in an area, this allows us to know that and improve those skills later on.”
The county recruited about 30 role-playing “victims,” many through social media.
“The victims did an outstanding job,” said Maas, who used a microphone to describe the event to a crowd of about 50 people gathered in the Fairgrounds grandstand. “They did a great job role-playing. I could hear them screaming and crying and acting out their injuries. And we couldn’t put something like this together without them. So we really appreciate it.”
Paul Lushinsky, a captain with the Mantorville Fire Department, said the exercise went fairly well, given that responders were not briefed on the scenario.
“We didn’t know how many people, what condition the bus was going to be in,” he said. “So it went pretty good.”
Lushinsky said it was difficult to grade the exercise. He was busy trying to free victims from the school bus.
“For the area I saw, I think it’s probably a B-plus, B-minus,” he said. “We all collaborated and got them all out as quick as we could, given all the other issues.”