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Mass casualty drill prepares station for worst-case scenario

By Lance Cpl. Matthew Rainey | | February 19, 2004

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The station fulfilled another requirement Feb. 13 when it held its annual mass casualty drill.

The drill is a requirement for the station to hold the annual air show, but it serves other purposes as well.

"We also do it to test the emergency responders and the procedures we have," said Chief Warrant Officer-4 Roger Bond, coordinator and observer. "Today we wanted to test our personnel and some of the community personnel."

The drill began at 9:20 a.m. with a simulated crash at building 576, involving a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with 20 Marines aboard and five by-standers on the ground. While seven people were pronounced dead on arrival, the remaining 18 were sorted according to the seriousness of their injuries and taken to either the Yuma Regional Medical Center or the Branch Medical Clinic.

The mass casualty drill incorporated emergency personnel from the Yuma community, including the Yuma Police and Yuma Fire Department, to familiarize them with station personnel they could be working with in the case of an emergency.

"This is the first time I've ever done a drill like this," said Sgt. Brian Scanlan, Yuma Police officer. "I now have an idea as to what all the leaders here are going to be doing and what they are looking for."

The drill also had something to offer to participants who have done the drill in past years.

"I did this drill last year." said J.C. Summers, Yuma Marine Corps Air Station Fire Department fire protection inspector. "Any time you get a chance to do a drill of this magnitude, you're going to have lessons learned. You're going to do good things and you're going to do bad things. We can take a look at those things and hopefully improve them before an actual incident occurs."

One of the station's weak spots was pointed out during the drill.

"There's always going to be confusion with these drills. We need to concentrate on getting through the confusion between everyone talking on the radios and an incident of this magnitude -- 25 victims laying on the ground and downed electric wires," said Bond.

Hard work was also revealed throughout the drill.

"For all of us to come together on one scene and work together and mutually aid each other is important," said Staff Sgt. Freddy King, incident commander for Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting. "I feel extremely confident. It's the first time I've worked with any of these guys. They were all very knowledgable, well trained and well versed on their job. They were willing to work with others and do what it took to get the job done."

Even though the drill's outcome was seen as positive by many, the reality behind the drill still stuck out.

"It's an unfortunate necessity that we have to prepare and train for these kinds of things," said Scanlan.

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