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Remembering 9/11: Citizens Fire Company completes training for mass casualty incidents

By Staff | Sep 13, 2019

CHARLES TOWN — As the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 drew near, the leadership of Citizens Fire Company decided to prepare their first responders for a mass casualty incident. On Sept. 4, the company planned a mass shooting drill, with community members serving as “victims” to allow Emergency Medical Technicians and firefighters to respond.

The training was led by Safety Officer Ed Hannon, a retired firefighter/EMT in Northern Virginia, who responded to the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

“It’s not ‘if’ it’s going to happen, it’s ‘when’ it’s going to happen,” Hannon told those assembled in the station’s training room. “It’s a necessity to train and train and train to be ready for the ‘big one.'”

A mass casualty incident is as any incident that injures or causes illness in enough people to overwhelm the resources usually available in a particular system or region.

According to Hannon, an automobile accident in Jefferson County earlier this year involved 11 patients, making it a mass casualty incident for the county, which normally has a maximum of three units that could immediately respond to a call.

Hannon then taught the group the most common triage method, the START Triage Method. It is a rapid initial assessment of all patients as the basis for assignment to treatment.

“Triage should take five minutes or less,” Hannon said. “It’s very quick.”

The scenario for the training was of a mass shooting. Pairs of first responders were instructed in triage practices. In addition to entering a scene filled with patients in a variety of conditions, the first responders were reminded they were also entering a crime scene. They were to disturb potential evidence as little as possible.

The trainees were sent into the scenario in pairs, working together to complete triage of approximately a dozen victims.

“We triaged 12,” said Maggie Lipscomb, a member of Citizens Fire Company. “We may have missed some, but we spent about 30 seconds per person.”

Lipscomb and her partner, Natale Russo, said they had done one previous mass casualty training.

“It was not quite as realistic or chaotic as this one,” Russo said. “It makes you think about how you would start to handle such a situation.”

The status of victims ranged from those who were not in life-threatening danger, to those who were deceased.

“No one has been through anything like this,” Hannon said, as pairs of EMTs completed their triage of the scene.

Circuit Court Judge David Hammer, who portrayed a gunshot victim, told providers they “were slower than Domino’s” in getting there to help him.

Debbie Royalty, who also played a gunshot victim, screamed continually as first responders entered the scene, leading to the chaotic atmosphere in the room.

“Recent mass shootings and the anniversary of 9/11 prompted us to focus more on mass casualty training,” said Citizens president Ron Fletcher. “We need to all prepare for an incident that could occur.”

Citizens holds training sessions for all company members on various elements of fire and rescue service weekly, Fletcher said.