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SYLMAR : Metrolink 'Disaster' Is Training Aid

December 21, 1993|REBECCA BRYANT

Yvonne Rodriguez's job was to play dead. She lounged in an upstairs aisle seat on a Metrolink train, seemingly comfortable and relaxed despite specks of blood that stained her pink sweat shirt. Her face was chalky white. Glaring pink bruises circled her eyes.

On the dining tray in front of Rodriguez, an official-looking blue sheet diagnosed her condition.

"Injuries: Massive Head Trauma. Behavior: DEAD!"

Rodriguez was one of dozens of "victims" in a training exercise held last week to give the Los Angeles Fire Department and other agencies a chance to train together for an emergency.

The simulation scenario was that a Metrolink train traveling north on the Santa Clarita line hit a diesel truck carrying a jet engine, derailing the train's cars. The "accident" at the crossing at San Fernando Road and Roxford Street in Sylmar was the first multi-agency, multi-casualty drill held with Metrolink.

"Our respective agencies are always doing their own things and the only time we come in contact is a life-threatening situation," said Phillip J. Weireter, Fire Department spokesman.

"It's not if it's going to happen, it's when it's going to happen," said paramedics chief Alan Cowen. "And when it does, we'll work smoothly."

Dozens of volunteer victims tried not to smear fake blood on the gray seats as they waited to be rescued and taken to Holy Cross Medical Center.

A group of emergency room nurses from Northridge Hospital Medical Center sat in the upper deck, joking about their injuries.

"I don't want a dead person at my table," someone said to Rodriguez.

"Oh dear, your laceration's come off," another said.

But for the firefighters, the drill was serious business. This was their chance to test their skill at recognizing the severity of injuries, deciding who needed immediate care and who could wait for treatment.

Outside, firefighters knelt over victims. Toni Ricketts, a Northridge nurse, was instructed to act "confused" and was taking her role to heart, wandering around, muttering about a hat.

In a real train wreck emergency, the county coroner's office would have sent workers, but Wednesday they were too short-staffed to send anyone to the drill, said spokesman Scott Carrier.

That left the victims labeled with a capital "C" scrawled in black on their cards in limbo. They sat up in their window seats and watched the rescue efforts until they were told to disembark.

"Feeling better?" someone asked Rodriguez as she sat on a firetruck.

"Well, I'm still dead," she said.

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