HERU stages simulated mass casualty incident

By ANUM AZAM | November 9, 2006

Ambulances, fire department vehicles and stretchers are an undesirable sight at any university, but last Friday night, they served as tools of the trade for the Hopkins Emergency Response Unit (HERU).

The Hopkins Emergency Response Organization (HERO), under which HERU operates, held the annual simulation of a mass casualty incident (MCI) on the Beach as a training exercise for current HERU members. HERU is a collegiate Emergency Medical Service (EMS) that responds to medical emergencies on the Homewood campus, according to the HERO Web site.

"This is the MCI drill. We hold one every year because we want to make sure that HERU is prepared to deal with any situation," Jillian Richmond, the HERO training officer who organized and oversaw the drill, said.

In order to simulate the MCI, dozens of students volunteered to be "victims" in a mock car accident. The accident involved a drunken student driving a Hopkins van into a number of pedestrians outside of the MSE Library, resulting in various injuries at various levels of seriousness.

"A mass casualty incident is a disaster in which many people die at the same time, such as a building falling down, a shooting or something of that nature. When an MCI occurs, HERO is responsible for dealing with the aftermath," junior Omair Javed, a HERU member who was involved with this year's drill, said.

"Hopkins doesn't know if it can deal with an MCI in case something like this happens," Franca Kraenzlin, a junior who volunteered to be a victim, said.

The HERU members involved were not notified about the time or place of the MCI to further simulate the potential reality of the situation.

"When the MCI occurs, HERU's first line is called in. Then, they call in the second line. There are about nine to 12 people out there treating patients and handling multiple injuries," Javed said.

Hopkins Security called for "the Hopkins ER Unit," describing the nature of the situation and the number of victims.

HERU members then ran into the chaotic scene and quickly assessed the situation, separating the "green light" victims from the "yellow" and "red" light victims, grouped according to the seriousness of the injuries and dealt with each victim accordingly.

The drill was designed to be as realistic as possible, so all of the equipment that the unit utilized was in stock, the victims were marked with very realistic makeup according to their injuries, and the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) was summoned.

"We need to know that we can handle it ourselves with the protocols that we have in place. So we use the phone tree to activate the special response team, which is always on call in case a situation like this occurs," Richmond said.

HERU would work in conjunction with the BCFD and Johns Hopkins Safety and Security if an MCI were to occur, he said.

"[Hopkins] Security provides the operational oversight and makes sure that things are running smoothly," and that the Fire Department is there to deal with the psychological traumas that victims may face, Richmond added.

Bruce Miller, a training officer and member of Hopkins Safety and Security, explained that his job is to be available for HERU for organizational purposes at the site of the accident.

After all of the victims had been patched up according to their specific injuries, which ranged from mild cuts and bruises to bone fractures to death, Richmond held a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing in the basement of Shriver Hall to decide what went well and the areas in which HERU can improve.

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