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Training for the worst

Friday, 28th March, 2014

Medical Students from the University Department of Rural Health treated victims played by students from Willyama High School. Medical Students from the University Department of Rural Health treated victims played by students from Willyama High School.

By Nick Gibbs

A complex training exercise involving a multi vehicle level crossing accident and chemical spill tested the city’s emergency services and medical students yesterday.

The simulated disaster unfolded at two sites around 9am in circumstances that bore an uncanny resemblance to reality.

Regional Emergency Management Officer for the Western Region Kel Wise explained the details of the multi-layered mock emergency.

“It’s been a real-time triple 0 call out for a collision between a train and two cars on a simulated railway crossing,” he said of the accident near the corner of Menindee Road and Holten Drive.

While securing the area and attending to multiple casualties, a secondary situation unfolded involving the spill of hazardous material near the RSPCA, Mr Wise said.

“Firefighters from the collision then had to go and fight at a HAZMAT site,” he said.

The unrelated incidents were designed to test how limited resources were prioritised and the effectiveness of interagency communication.

“Are they telling police they are going or just pulling up stumps and leaving?” Mr Wise asked as an example.

Students from the University Department of Rural Health were on the scene to aid those injured, the victims played by volunteers from Willyama High School.

“We couldn’t do this without them. Hopefully they have had a bit of fun,” Mr Wise said.

In the “collision”, one person requiring a leg amputation, train driver was injured and two others treated for chemical injuries. 

The UDRH Director of Clinical Medicine, Dr Malcolm Moore, agreed the exercise provided a rare insight into extraordinary circumstances.

“Firstly, it’s good for them to see how emergency services work together and how it’s all coordinated,” he said.

“Secondly, it’s good to give practice in triage.”

Medical students had to deal with a wide range of individual cases, from the dead to the walking wounded. 

There was also the difficulty that treatment in the field often meant limited equipment.

“One patient had a broken leg and there was no spare splint,” Dr Moore said. “It can be quite confronting.”

He joined Mr Wise in thanking the Willyama volunteers who presented at 7am to have their “wounds” treated with the help of Perilya’s Mine Rescue team.

An extensive debriefing was conducted with the UDHR and emergency services agencies after the accident.

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