A call came across the scanner — an incident at River Valley Ranch, possible injuries, very little details.
But outside, the scene staged on the property north of Millers, was grim.
Bodies of human participants and mannequins lay splayed in the grass and underneath a set of wooden bleachers, fake blood dripping from them. Some had fake head wounds, others fake blood covered large portions of their bodies.
Those playing victims let out ear-chilling screams and pleas for help.
And while everything on site was just that — fake — the goal of Saturday’s exercise was very real.
Members of fire companies from Carroll and surrounding jurisdictions, spent a few hours Saturday morning practicing their response to a staged bleacher collapse.
“Today we simulated a multiple patient response,” Matt Burgen, the EMS captain at Lineboro volunteer fire company, said. “These 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. 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.”
Burgen said Saturday’s mass casualty training was a chance for Lineboro to get together with regional response partners to practice handling a situation that involved a number of patients like this.
The response to a mass casualty incident is different than that of a regular call, Burgen said. During the average call, they focus on treating and transporting a patient in front of them. But in a mass casualty incident, he said, they have to sort out patients by severity.
“I think we all had a great opportunity and we all learned an awful lot,” he said.
As crews came upon the scene at River Valley Ranch, initially small, and then larger as the level of trauma became clear, they worked to identify what type of injuries victims had, and assess the scene. Next, they systematically began tagging patients — red for those with severe injuries, yellow for those injured but not at badly, green for those with minor injuries and black for patients who were dead.
Scott Goldstein, captain of the Pikesville volunteer fire company, was on site Saturday with members of the Chestnut Ridge volunteer fire company. Goldstein said he’s a part of the Chestnut Ridge special operations team, and they put on these types of trainings multiple times each year.
The bleacher scenario was a chance for people to practice disaster simulation, he said. In this case, he said, when responders first came on scene, they only thought one or two people were injured. Upon arriving, they learned it was a major incident, and had to work from there.
“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,” Goldstein said.
Jake Evans, a firefighter/EMT with Lineboro, said Saturday’s training was the second of its kind that he’s been to.
Evans said he wasn’t sure how it would go, especially because there were a lot of dummies, and only some real people. But, he said, it went really well.
“Everybody treated it like real world experience. Nobody was just walking around acting like it was just another drill,” Evans said.
With a mass casualty event, anything and everything can go wrong, he said. It’s a different mindset going in, because you may have to step over someone who is dead to help someone who is still alive. It’s not easy, he added.
But it’s necessary.
“You can't have ten people die because you're trying to save one, unfortunately, as bad as that sounds,” he said.
Evans said he’s never had to cover a mass casualty situation like this before, and hopes he never has to. But, he said, it’s training like they did on Saturday that helps them prepare in case something ever happens.
“Once you're in that kind of situation, you almost forget what you're doing and you rely solely on your training and this is just one more thing to add to my training for when, god forbid, that day happens,” Evans said.