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Firefighters, medics hone skills with exercise

Story by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar – A car is driving down the road when suddenly disaster strikes. In an instant, the driver loses control and crashes.

Eight people are badly injured in the accident and several suffer life-threatening injuries. The driver and passenger are trapped inside.

This was the scene as 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters and 379th Expeditionary Medical Group medics responded to a mass-casualty exercise at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 15.

Firefighters and emergency medical technicians responded within minutes and quickly went to work. As a team of firefighters used the Jaws of Life to rescue the two trapped vehicle occupants EMTs started caring for crash victims lying on the ground.

Crash victims suffered injuries from broken bones and open wounds to impaled objects. Each one was swiftly transported to the Blatchford-Preston Complex Clinic where they received emergency medical treatment.

Exercises like this are vital to ensuring first responders are ready when needed, said Master Sgt. Robert Poole, 379th EMDG Enroute Patient Staging Facility flight chief.

“Since firefighters and EMTs are emergency responders, it’s imperative that we work together as a team, both with the initial response and with treating our patients so they can get the care they need,” Poole said.

Exercise planners said the purpose of the training scenario was to test the joint response team in three areas; communication, patient movement and the ability to respond jointly with firefighters and EMTs.

“We wanted to test our capabilities in several areas, especially with patient movement,” Poole said.

Properly triaging patients and getting them to the care they need quickly is critical, said Lt. Col. John Bruun, 379th EMDG tramua cszar and commander of the 379th EMDG’s Mobile Field Surgical Team One.

“It’s essential we practice these capabilities, while people may have good medical training we need to ensure they know how to deal with a trauma system,” Bruun said.

An important element to managing mass-trauma events is properly tracking patient movement, Bruun said.

“It’s important everyone understands the flow of traffic and for everyone to know their assigned roles,” Bruun said. “This means ensuring patients are labeled appropriately so we know who they are and where they go, knowing which patients are in the emergency room and when we move them to the operating room. If the OR becomes overwhelmed, knowing what becomes the secondary OR and when to initiate life flights is also vital.”

During the exercise, more than 50 members of the 379th EMDG sprang into action. Medical teams quickly triaged patients and made decisions on the level of care those patients needed. A team of Airmen tracked patient movement and kept the medical staff informed on every patient move.

Bruun said he’s proud of how well his Airmen performed.

“Exercises like this are chaotic and it’s a team effort to react properly,” Bruun said. “I’m very proud of the team, I’m proud of how we managed patient movement especially in the emergency room and the urgency that our team displayed.”

“There’s always things we can improve upon, but our teams did several things well,” Bruun said. “Point of injury coordination between our EMTs and the fire department was great, our teams transported patients and communicated well and the immediate care the patients received was done properly and the triage decision making was good.”

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