By Josh Howald
Disaster struck Wednesday morning in Kincardine.
Luckily, it was a mock disaster.
A member of the Kincardine Fire Department comforts Danielle Parsons as he assesses injuries to Jared Kerr Wednesday morning at the MedQUEST mock disaster at the former P.U.C. building in Kincardine. MedQUEST students acted as victims in a school explosion in order to job shadow emergency services workers and test Kincardine's preparedness for a real disaster. (Josh Howald photo)
MedQUEST, along with the Kincardine Fire Department and Bruce County Emergency Services replicated an explosion during a high school summer automotive shop class Wednesday morning at the old P.U.C. building on the south side of town.
The disaster featured two vehicles, one in a garage with a training mannequin underneath and a second, outside the building near a gas pump. The vehicle was filled with smoke using a smoke simulator, and a training mannequin was inside. An additional 20 victims suffered injuries ranging from minor to lethal from the initial explosion.
The victims were played by 20 MedQUEST students, with an additional 10 students observing the scene. MedQUEST is an annual week-long medical-based summer camp for county high school students interested in a career in the field of health care.
Fire and emergency crews were able to secure and clear the site in a little more than 20 minutes. It was all over after 35.
“With so many victims and the potential for more fire, it was pure chaos,” said Kincardine Fire Chief Jamie MacKinnon. “I think things went very well. The first time we did this about four years ago, it took us about an hour to secure the scene.”
“We’ll go over things at a debriefing later this afternoon at the station,” he said. “While things went great, I’m sure there were things we could do better. There is always room for improvement, and this was a good opportunity for us to practice.”
His crew, along with emergency workers, removed risks and triaged the victims with colour coded tags by severity of injury. They also had to deal with the students, who played the part of victims extremely well. They took a quick acting lesson earlier in the week, and arrived on the scene at 8 a.m. for make-up application. While some were able to help the rescue workers, several others, suffering from shock, didn’t make the jobs of the rescue workers easy.
“I think what impressed me the most was the co-operation between the emergency workers and the fire department,” said firefighter Ryan Mahood. “They depend on us to keep the scene safe for them, and I certainly know that we depend on them for help.”
“I thought everything today was well-coordinated and well organized,” said MacKinnon. “The students did a real good job, and I think it gives them some insight into the service we provide for the community as careers.”
Kincardine’s Amelia Davidson is a MedQUEST student, and played the part of a victim with minor injuries.
“It is a good test for our services, and it really helps us to see the emergency crews in action,” said Davidson, who is contemplating a career in the medical field. “We know that if something like this ever does happen, we’ll be in good hands - but hopefully something like this never does happen here.”
Davidson, a KDSS student, advises anybody interested in the health care field to sign up for the MedQUEST program. She is one of four Kincardine teenagers in the program, the others being Rebecca Dadson, Brooke MacKenzie and Ethan Winterburn. Kincardine’s Leslie Morrison, a medical school student, is also a counsellor at the camp.
“It’s a great program, and it is really helping to see this stuff first hand,” said Davidson.
Myra Ingles, the chair of MedQUEST, discussed the goals of the program. She said it shows students what medical career opportunities exist in rural Ontario, so they can decide if it is something that interests them with the goal of hopefully luring them back to working in the area. The program is run out of Walkerton District Secondary School. The students also attended sessions on obstetrics, clinic work, physical exams and other topics last week .
“Things like today gives them perspective,” she said. “Hopefully it gives them a glimpse of health care careers and you never know, one of these students could be a future doctor in Bruce or Grey County.”