Mock dis­as­ter strikes Mac to test re­spon­ders’ skills

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MOLLY HAYES mhayes@thes­ 905-526-3214 | @mol­ly­hayes

A chem­i­cal spill in the green­house. A car ac­ci­dent in the park­ing garage.

A deadly virus, spread­ing across cam­pus.

It was pure chaos — of the sim­u­lated va­ri­ety — at McMaster Univer­sity this week­end, the host school of this year’s Na­tional Con­fer­ence for Cam­pus Emer­gency Re­spon­ders (NCCER).

Re­sponse teams from uni­ver­si­ties across On­tario and Que­bec came to­gether for a se­ries of lec­tures be­fore be­ing put through a se­ries of dra­ma­tized dis­as­ter sce­nar­ios to test their readi­ness for a true emer­gency.

This year’s theme was The Awak­en­ing, based on a cri­sis in a fic­tional lab at the univer­sity.

In a va­ri­ety of “28 Days Later”-es­que sce­nar­ios, re­spon­ders were put to the task of tack­ling the fall­out of a vi­ral out­break sweep­ing the cam­pus — one that ended in a mass ca­su­alty sit­u­a­tion in the atrium on Mon­day.

“The theme was cho­sen on ac­count of all of the var­i­ous epi­demic scares we have had in the last decade,” or­ga­nizer Michael Ro­ma­niuk ex­plained — Ebola, SARS, Swine Flu, etc.

And while they were de­liv­ered with a sci-fi twist, each sce­nario in­volved is­sues that the cam­pus re­spon­ders could face in real life. Things like soft tis­sue in­juries and lac­er­a­tions. Bro­ken bones. Emer­gency births. Psy­chi­atric is­sues.

“How did I do?” Con­nor Cham­bers, 21, asked Sun­day morn­ing, ly­ing on the floor of the cam­pus green­house. To his right was a pud­dle of liq­uid and an over­turned haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als bucket — in­di­ca­tors of a chem­i­cal spill.

Cham­bers is part of the emer­gency re­sponse team at the Univer­sity of Guelph. But on Sun­day he vol­un­teered as an ac­tor. One by one, each com­pet­ing team took turns rush­ing to the scene to as­sess Cham­bers’s (fake) in­juries.

Be­hind them, Ben St. Peters, an­other Guelph re­spon­der, took notes. He was one of the judges as­sess­ing each re­sponse team, and found it in­ter­est­ing to note the dif­fer­ent ap­proaches each team took. Some were me­chan­i­cal — quick and ef­fec­tive. Oth­ers took more time to con­sole or com­fort the pa­tient.

“It’s just as in­for­ma­tive be­ing on the pa­tient side, see­ing how peo­ple treat you,” Rei­dun Gaza­pick, a mem­ber of McMaster’s emer­gency first re­sponse team, noted.

Roughly 30 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents make up McMaster’s emer­gency first re­sponse team. They ro­tate through a 24-hour on call sched­ule and travel to calls by bi­cy­cle be­fore paramedics ar­rive.

The con­fer­ence also in­cluded a se­ries of lec­tures from emer­gency re­spon­ders, in­clud­ing nurses and po­lice and paramedics.

“It’s an opportunity to learn about the field of emer­gency medicine out­side the scope of be­ing a first re­spon­der,” Ro­ma­niuk says.

“It keeps us sharp. It keeps us on the ball.”


Univer­sity of Ottawa emer­gency re­sponse team mem­bers re­spond to a mock poi­son spill in Mac green­house.

See video of how re­spon­ders did with car crash at thes­

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