Jacks Valley firefighters hold live-action training exercise
Although Carson Valley residents may feel safe from terrorist attacks, the East Fork Fire District prepares for every possibility.
Jacks Valley and Johnson Lane volunteer firefighters went through procedures for a multiple-casualty incident Feb. 6 at Jacks Valley Volunteer Fire Station in Indian Hills. The training exercise involved two incidents – a head-on collision and a poison gas release.
The training was the volunteers’ introduction to a semester-long look at terrorist activities, said Jacks Valley EMT/firefighter Sheila Clement, who organized the exercise with Jacks Valley volunteers LeRoy Clement and Lillie Tallmant and Johnson Lane volunteer Dick Atwood.
The firefighters were to behave as if the scenario was real. They were given scripts with times and places and told to respond to the scene with the urgency of a real accident.
While working through the incidents, firefighters were supposed to be thinking about how they could improve the response and special considerations when dealing with a terrorist attack.
Helping the firefighters was Boy Scout Troop 16 from Carson City. The Scouts immersed themselves in the roles of victims of both the car accident and the poison gas. Each boy had a small paper pinned to his shirt so the paramedics could see what was wrong with him.
Each Boy Scout had been given “bruises” and other wounds by professional make-up artists from Image Perspectives of Carson City. Bystanders watched and media personnel harassed the paramedics for information about the accident.
When the car accident was cleared, more Boy Scouts rushed out of an adjoining room, yelling that some companions were sick. Firefighters were told of the scenario beforehand – a terrorist group attempting to sabotage a political meeting planned for the following day at Jacks Valley Elementary School planted balloons filled with sarin gas. Rowdy Boy Scouts meeting at the school popped a balloon, causing those closest to die within four minutes and others to become violently ill.
According to an information sheet distributed to the participants, sarin gas is 26 times more deadly than cyanide gas, and just 0.01 milligram per kilogram of body weight – a pinprick-sized droplet – will kill a human.
The three first responding firefighters rushed in without their air packs and were overcome by the gas.
Other firefighters used their air packs and were able to pull many of the people out of the room and administer first aid before taking them to a hospital.
In a real terrorist situation, the firefighters and paramedics would establish a command post, gather information about the incident and the number of patients, evacuate and isolate patients away from the hazard and administer treatment and decontamination.
Clement said such heavily involved training is rare, but volunteers train at least a couple of hours a week every week.
“I thought (the volunteers) did terrific,” Clement said. “They put their whole hearts into it. This is a great opportunity to practice their skills. Across the nation, there is going to be a great emphasis on getting firefighters trained on terrorism. It could happen here. Nobody expected anything to happen in Colorado, either. Nobody ever thinks it will happen at home.”