Drill readies emergency responders for real events

Bodies were strewn throughout the rocks north of the Wrangell Airport, the site of a grisly airplane wreck. Cries for help could be heard here and there. Bloodied victims wandered aimlessly.

Every three years, the state Department of Transportation requires a drill to prepare emergency responders in the case of a real disaster. Last Wednesday, approximately 25 firefighters and EMTs treated volunteer victims during a mock plane crash, complete with fiery wreckage and triage stations.

Before the drill began, Capt. Dorianne Sprehe of the Wrangell Fire Department instructed a group of 28 adults and children volunteer victims about how to act with their assigned injuries.

"If you have an arterial bleed or compound fracture, you do not get up and move to the green (tarp). Stay put. Make them move you," Sprehe instructed the group. "Nobody is really dead. Rowen (Wiederspohn) is the only one that should be laying there for any length of time."

The disaster drill is typically run in conjunction with a medical drill put on by Wrangell Medical Center. This year, SEARHC won't hold its drill until June, Sprehe said, which meant emergency responders at the airport drill did not transport volunteers to the hospital.

Along with the injured bodies, firefighters also had to quash a fire that represented a downed aircraft. An old pickup truck that had been used for parts was gutted, transported to the drill site, filled with wood pallets, then set ablaze. Crews had to knock down the blaze before moving in to treat victims.

One volunteer victim, Gerrit Southland, feels the drill is a good way to show children how such actions can save their lives should a real disaster occur.

"I just want to help the community and I want to be a Wrangell volunteer firefighter," Southland said. "I've been trying to get on for five years."

Police Chief Tom Radke watched from the sidelines as firefighters and EMTs coordinated their efforts and treated and moved victims.

"The real thing never goes this smoothly," he said. "Something always goes wrong."


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