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Base Medical Center conducts mass casualty drill

By Cpl. Giovanni Lobello | | October 21, 2004

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A 7-ton vehicle collided with a pick-up truck carrying an 8 and a half month pregnant woman on her way to the Branch Medical Clinic Oct. 14. As a result of the accident, the 7-ton rolled over, injuring the 23 Marines aboard the vehicle.

This scenario was used to kick off the clinic's fall mass casualty drill, simulating a variety of injuries to different patients.

"We do mass casualty drills two times a year," said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cornwell, BMC officer-in-charge. "We perform one in the spring and one in the fall. This is all done for training. Since we are one of the few treatment facilities on the station, we always have to keep our skills up."

The mass casualty drill is also done to serve as a team building exercise, said Cornwell.

"We have a lot of corpsmen that have deployed with Marines to Iraq," added Cornwell. "So when we do this, they already have experience and are able to teach others with less knowledge."

After the simulated accident, the "patients" arrived in groups, acting as if they were injured.

The triage staff analyzed the wounded and then placed them into two different categories; immediate or wounded.

The severely wounded were dealt with first and further analyzed in greater detail. After the analysis, the wounded were either taken care of in the clinic or transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center.

Following the serious injuries, the patients with smaller wounds were treated in the clinic and then released.

The BMC personnel dealt with injuries such as scrapes, bone fractures, dizziness and even an unexpected pregnancy.

"We tried to have injuries that we normally have to deal with," said Cornwell. "The staff did a good job of helping the wounded quickly and simulated transporting them out of the clinic."

Even though the mass casualty drill is only done two times a year, the exercise still serves a purpose.

"This is not something we do very often," said Barbara Balwinski, triage nurse. "But it is good practice. It also tells us how we can organize ourselves better and lets us know what we are capable of doing if something like this does happen."

"Anytime you have a mass casualty, people will have some confusion," said Lt. j.g. Beth Kane, BMC clinic coordinator. "However, everyone worked well together, especially triage. They did a good job getting people from the clinic to the hospital, and doing the simple things like bandaging up wounds."

"The drill went very well," said Cornwell. "Of course there is always area for improvement, but these guys really have a great working relationship. So it makes events like this fun to do.

"The exercise was also a good time to practice with the field litters and stands since we don't use them in the normal Monday through Friday routine.

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