DENISON, TX - After the flooding of 2007 and the major bus accident in 2008, Sherman firefighters have firsthand experience dealing with mass casualties. But Thursday the Sherman Fire Department put a new tool to the test to help them save more lives when seconds count. Josh Stevenson has more on Thursday's mock disaster drill.
Dozens of wounded people were laying on the cold pavement in Sherman Thursday morning being treated and loaded into emergency vehicles by first responders, but it's not an emergency. It's a mass casualty drill, a chance for Firefighters and Texoma Medical Center staffers to prepare for disaster.
"Practice, so when it really happens you are ready, so one of the things we prepare for is an influx of patients," Chief Jeff Jones of the Sherman Fire Department said.
Enter the Multi Patient Vehicle, or MPV, the mother of all ambulances.
"It was really designed for disaster situations where we have to move a lot of patients to a hospital at one time," Jones said.
The MPV is a new addition to the Sherman Fire Department, acquired through a grant from the state of Texas. One of four distributed across Texas, the MPV is part of a statewide emergency medical task force plan. So while hospital staff were refining their skills in dealing with large groups of trauma patients, firefighters were putting the new vehicle through its paces, learning lessons they may soon put into practice.
"We could be requested through the state to go to any type of disaster, Texas, Oklahoma or beyond in necessary," Jones said.
In this drill the MPV did not disappoint. In all 23 patients were transported to the TMC Emergency Room. Upon arrival, the wounded were off-loaded and admitted in around 20 minutes. TMC Director of Emergency Preparedness Donna Glenn, R.N. says that is no trivial number, because in a mass casualty situation every second counts.
"That lets us know how fast those patients can come off, so we know how fast we need to be ready," Glenn said.
Chief Jones says that while there is no perfect analog for a real disaster, Thursday's drill has first responders thinking about how they can best use their new tools to save lives in a real emergency.
"It's going to take us a little longer in real life, but we will put some things in place and prepare some ideas that will help us when we go into actual operations."