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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / OAK VIEW

Rescue Workers Prove Masters of the Disaster

June 04, 1998|JENNIFER HAMM

The injuries were fake but the energy was real Wednesday when more than 25 firefighters and paramedics responded to a simulated disaster--the collapse of the Oak View Community Center.

Cardboard bodies with injury descriptions were placed around the building for firefighters and paramedics to assess, then carry on stretchers to a triage area. Six emergency medical technicians also posed as victims, holding injury descriptions and screaming in pain.

Those deemed most seriously injured--some of them cardboard, some real--were taken by helicopter to area hospitals.

Among the flesh-and-blood victims was June Weaver, labeled with severe cuts to the left leg and a collapsed lung.

After wrapping gauze around her leg, firefighters moved her on a stretcher to triage and then transported her to the hospital.

Recently certified as an EMT, Weaver has not yet faced such an emergency situation.

"I would just take it as a challenge, although I'd be scared," Weaver said. "How can you not be?"

Training is the best way to prepare emergency response teams for large-scale situations, said Glenn Garcia, Ventura County Fire Department battalion chief.

Ventura County Firefighter Barry Parker outlined the participants' strategy: "The idea is to quickly assess the patient and then move on to the next."

Officials also tried to put some unexpected obstacles--such as interrupting radio communication--in the way of paramedics and firefighters.

"We do little things," Garcia said. "They're used to our games, but the guys did really well."

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