The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Mock Plane crash Creates Training Ground For Emergency Crews

County-wide disaster drill deemed huge success

By Sally Day, The Quill

Idyllic conditions helped set the scene for the very successful disaster drill in the form of a plane crash, held at Gladstone Lake on Saturday morning, September 15, 2012.

Volunteers gathered early for the exercise, set up to expedite emergency management in any potential disaster in the future. One could almost feel tensions mounting and adrenaline increasing as "victims" took their places along the north side of the Lake, which was to be an "island" for the purposes of this drill and not reachable by land.

Each victim was tagged as to what medical needs were necessary. Along with serious injuries, there was a pregnant woman in labor, several people already deceased, and victims in various medical conditions.

Some victims had a cardboard box on a leg or arm, or on their chest. These boxes had instructions on them, stating the poundage of a piece of airplane. And these "pieces of plane" needed to be removed by one or more than one volunteer (depending on the weight) before an assessment of the patient could be made.

The "plane crash" extended from nearly the far west end to the east end of the Lake, with victims strewn through the underbrush of the beach.

Beginning at about 9 a.m., sirens pierced the air as several ambulances and fire trucks made their way to the south side of the Lake. Once more tensions and adrenaline increased as two boats began transporting emergency personnel to the "crash site". These two boats made their way back and forth across the Lake, taking victims to a staging area. A third boat was also on the Lake, observing and sometimes assisting volunteers in their plight.

Rescue workers quickly assessed the victims and made the tough decisions as to whom was to be taken to the hospital first and what medical treatments others would receive in the field. While all this was going on, sirens screamed through the morning taking the more seriously injured to local hospitals.

Less than an hour into the exercise, an "all stop" was called. All emergency personnel ceased what they were doing to listen to instructions. One of their own was in need. Mary "Petey" Parsons, 54, of Gladstone had become overheated and collapsed. Parsons, an EMT, her adrenaline pumping had experienced tachycardia and was taken from the "island" by boat to the staging area on the south side and to the hospital. When Parsons was clearly out of danger and being cared for by her peers, the action resumed.

EMTs worked quickly and without complaint for approximately two hours, taking their victims through the entire process, to placing them in ambulances, headed for the hospital.

A staging area of triage had been set up on the south side of the Lake. Here, Eagle View Community Health System medical personnel, along with Henderson County Health Department volunteers, assisted victims and other emergency personnel by assessing patients and deciding which were injured seriously and needed immediate hospital attention.

In the meantime, two helicopters landed at the southwest end of the Lake. These medical transporters were utilized for the most severely injured victims, as was "Victim Number 1", Laurie Gray of Gladstone.

Following the exercise, everyone gathered on the south side of the Lake, to assess the drill. Scores of volunteers dotted the beach, listening to the organizers and instructors.

Coral Seitz, Henderson County Emergency Management Director, who headed up the exercise, as part of a requirement for her office, told volunteers they did a fabulous job and that, "Everyone worked so well together." She was very proud of the group. In her assessment she noted that she had noticed radio batteries were running low during the drill and suggested emergency personnel carry battery supply back ups.

John Carson, first in command on the McDonough County Sheriff Department Dive and Rescue Team, also spoke to the group. He stated, "I am so impressed with the numbers, the people who turned out." All morning long, Carson could be heard stating what a great drill this was and how well the volunteers were doing. One thing Carson noticed which could be improved was to "designate a radio command." He continued, "You also need decent life jackets, not the older Mae West type, but the newer yellow ones." He referred to the newer ones as PFDs or Personal Flotation Devices.

Second in command on the McDonough County Sheriff Department Bill Stone also attended the drill, as did two divers from that organization.

Carson told emergency personnel they needed to remember these guidelines:

1. Secure Communication Central

2. Designate Kill (Danger) Zone

3. Designate Inner Perimeter

4. Designate Outer Perimeter

5. Establish Command Post

6. Establish Staging Areas

7. Designate Other Resources Needed

Jeff Robbins of Oquawka, served as Counselor for the drill. Robbins, also had high praises for the volunteers. "Your arrive time was marvelous," he said. He also reminded the group, "Let the dispatchers, dispatch. You all did a great job."

Coral Seitz also explained that Henderson County Sheriff Department Chief Deputy Donnie Seitz, organized the event and came up with idea. It was quite an undertaking and a very successful drill.

Grant Gray of Gladstone, Paramedic and Helicopter Pilot, also piloted the third boat on the water, transporting observers.

Med Force of Great River Medical Center, West Burlington, Iowa and Air Evac of Fort Madison, Iowa, provided helicopters for the exercise.

Others on hand, volunteering their time and expertise included:

Dr. Robert Pogue, Joni Dillard and Sara Lefler, all of Stronghurst and Eagle View Community Health Services. Melinda Whiteman of Biggsville and Eagle View Community Health Services.

Henderson County Sheriff, Steve Haynes, Stronghurst

Henderson County Coroner, Kris Beals, Stronghurst

Illinois State Police

Henderson County Sheriff's Deputies

GHAS, Galesburg Hospital Ambulance Service

All Fire Districts and Departments in Henderson County:

Oquawka Fire and Ambulance

MST Fire and Ambulance

Lomax Fire and Ambulance and Rescue Boat

Gladstone Fire and Ambulance

Biggsville Ambulance on stand by

Henderson County Health Department personnel

Eagle View Community Health System personnel

Henderson County Sheriff Department Rescue Boat

Evaluators: Jeanie Dunn, Angie Peterson, Cindy Fedler, John Fedler, Karen Cole, Todd Miller, and Vince Whiteman

McDonough County Sheriff Department Dive and Rescue Team put on a demonstration of their capabilities following the drill. Volunteers present said they did an excellent job.

Volunteers also appreciated the lunch, which was served around noon.

At the end of the day, Volunteers could be very proud of themselves for a job well-done and very needed.