Editorial: Mass casualty simulation gives emergency responders needed experience, skills

The staged scene at River Valley Ranch this past weekend was frightening, even if it was just an exercise, because it was a simulation of something our local emergency responders could very well be faced with one day.

On Saturday, the members of Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department and agencies in surrounding jurisdictions participated in what they referred to as a mass casualty training, on the grounds of River Valley Ranch near Millers. The simulated scene was a bleacher collapse, involving several individuals who acted as victims and needed treatment from the emergency responders.


Incidents involving a multiple patient response “have been increasing in numbers throughout the country and we recently just had an incident ... involving a bus, not far from Lineboro, where our crews responded to assist Baltimore County,” Matt Burgen, the EMS captain at Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department, told us. “So it was important to us to practice and train on these kind of events, because they present challenges that we’re not used to in our professional response.”

In a way, that’s a good thing. We hope that the skills local emergency responders gained from Saturday’s exercise are ones that they never have to put to use in real life, because that means some sort of tragedy — whether it is a bus crash, a bleacher collapse, a mass shooting, or something else — would have occurred.

This sort of practice is particularly good for small, rural fire companies like Lineboro, which could have first arriving personnel on scene but be waiting for others to respond. In a situation like this, every second is crucial, so having the ability to react quickly can literally make the difference between life and death.

We hope all of our 14 fire companies are able to participate in similar training exercises, even if not within the county.

Fortunately, these aren’t everyday situations in Carroll County, which means responding to an average call, where emergency personnel may be focusing only on a single patient, even if their injuries are significant, may not prepare them in the same way when they encounter multiple patients with injuries of varying degrees.

“The whole purpose of the exercise is for them to practice how to be overwhelmed, how to get here and make some organization out of chaos, how to bring all the resources in that we need, manage those resources, figure out who’s truly injured, who’s not, separate them and then triage them out to the proper facilities,” Scott Goldstein, captain of the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company, told us.

Practice, as they say, makes perfect. And much like the way firefighters will tell people to have fire drills so that you react instinctively in case of a real fire or emergency, the same applies here.

Having the practical, in-field experience from these simulations will hopefully allow emergency responders to react quickly and fall back on their training if they were to be called to a real mass casualty situation.