Emergency responders take part in a mock disaster on Wednesday, July 25 in Riparius. The drill simulated a car-train accident along the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.
Several fire trucks, an ambulance and other emergency support vehicles gathered around a car that seemed to have collided with a car on the Saratoga & North Creek Railway Wednesday, July 25, just south of the Riverside train station.
In this mock drill, paramedics were tending to bloodied and disorientated people — many on stretchers, and firemen were busy removing someone trapped in the vehicle.
But there was no accident, and there were no real victims. The apparently injured citizens were volunteers, their injuries the result of the effective application of “moulage” — make-up used to simulate various conditions. Everyone involved was participating in the first Mass Casualty Incident Drill by the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.
“This is how we learn,” said Brian LaFlure, director of Warren County EMS.
The exercise scenario involved a vehicle striking a train at the Riverside crossing. The point of impact was the middle of the dome car, primarily involving the lower dinning car. The driver was trapped inside the vehicle, which was in danger of burning, as was the dome car itself. A total of 10 people were injured, including five walking wounded, three people who needed assistance exiting the train, one person with a neck injury, and one person on the ground outside of the train.
The first responders on the scene were from Riverside and Chestertown. They were followed by responders from Pottersville, North Creek, Johnsburg, Garnet Lake, Bakers Mills and North River.
A portable pond was set up, and water was sprayed away from the train and car. The windshield was removed from the car, and the jaws-of-life were used to extricate the trapped driver, which was a training dummy.
All the agencies and groups involved followed the protocols and procedures that a real incident would require. Even the volunteer victims behaved realistically for the duration of the drill.
Amy Drexel, the emergency services coordinator for Warren County EMS, said they try to reproduce the conditions that responders will face during a real incident as much as possible in order to prepare them for an actual incident. This is especially critical when responders have had no prior experience with the incident type.
Mark Ellsworth, the safety and security coordinator for Iowa Pacific Holdings (parent company of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway), explained that the Federal Railway Administration requires that they have one such drill a year. He was pleased with the level of coordination and cooperation between the various agencies involved and felt that things were handled efficiently overall.
LaFlure explained that after the drill every chief, squad captain and supervisor would be doing a “hotwash” — filling out a report that evaluates what went well, what didn’t, and how things that didn’t could be improved. These reports would be gathered into an after-action report that would be used in future training and decision making. They were thinking of making the next exercise involve a train in the woods, and again every effort would be made to create a realistic scenario for responders to face.