A while back, I attended a mass casualty incident (MCI) symposium. One of the key speakers was a paramedic from a well-funded department in Nevada. The basic theme of his presentation was simple: Many agencies
arrogantly assume they are prepared for any event, and they base
their emergency response protocols on what they assume will
happen instead of what could happen.
His agency was no exception. It had always assumed an MCI
would occur on or near designated roadways. The city council
made sure the department was equipped to handle such incident
as well. So, the fire department had the best ambulances, fire
apparatus, medical supplies, communications, and crash trucks
available. This included the fire station at the airport. A number
of small jetliners flew into the airport every week. So, the city
council made sure the airport fire station was equipped with the
latest fire engines and crash trucks to respond to a potential crash
landing at the airport.
Here was the major flaw in the emergency response planning:
Council members and fire command officers assumed any crash
would occur at the airport or on the highway near the airport.
Fire department personnel could then drive their fancy fire
engines and ambulances up to the crash site. But that isn’t what
happened, and fire department personnel were totally unprepared
to respond to the actual crash site.
Why? The jetliner crash site was located on a 7,000-foot-high
mountain near the airport. And worse, the crash occurred during
a zero-visibility snowstorm.
The department had no contingency plans for getting emergency responders or their supplies up the mountain. Even worse,
it had no protocols in place for bringing a large number of
injured patients down the mountain. And make no mistake, fire
command officers should have planned for such an event.
If your incident location is two miles up,
are you really prepared to respond?
BY S. PATRICK CULSHAW
On Mount Charleston, in Nevada, a C- 54 military
transport augered into the peak at the 9,000-foot
level. It took days for the rescue team to reach the
crash site, and it took one day just to cover the last
four miles to the site. (Photo by author.)