Mass casualty scenario wraps up 413 Squadron’s search and rescue exercise

News Article / October 26, 2018

Volunteer victims have a unique role to play
in emergency response training

By Sara White

“Lynn,” said Sergeant Jonathan Pothier, “we’re going to give you a head injury, some makeup blood coming out your ear. Muriel, you’re going to be our pelvic fracture.”

“What?!”

“Oh, you’re conscious all the time,” he added, “complaining: ‘Oh, I’m in severe pain.’ If they move you, ham it up!”

Sergeant Pothier was busy giving medical conditions to nine volunteer victims of a two-aircraft crash, the simulated exercise that wrapped up 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron’s week-long set of search and rescue exercises October 5. The fall search and rescue exercise (SAREX), held October 1 to 5, 2018, at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, combined the resources of 413 Squadron; the Canadian Coast Guard; the Halifax Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC); and the volunteer Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) in joint scenarios over the Bay of Fundy and western Nova Scotia.

While Sergeant Pothier moved around the medical supplies room at 413 Squadron’s hangar, gathering makeup, torsos, smoke machines and other scene-setting supplies for the aircraft crash exercise, Sergeant Muriel Arsenault—she of the simulated pelvic fracture—was sharing war stories of her experiences as simulated casualty.

“Oh, yeah, there will be bodies everywhere—some of us in the woods, but not too deep,” she said, describing what an exercise could look like to some of the recruits helping at this scenario.

“There will be smoke—no fire. The Herc’ll fly over, a whole bunch of SAR techs [technicians] will jump out and start running around. At least, that’s what they did in Summerside.

“You go to a national SAREX, you get jimmied up for real!” she added. “In Yellowknife last year, my injury . . . my leg was cut off, and I was sitting in a helicopter carcass. I buried my real leg in the sand and had a stubby strapped on my knee. There was a pump with a line that went all the way up to my hand, and I could press it and squirt out blood—but I had to be mindful: too much, and I’d run out! Man, oh man—I did that twice a day.”

Sergeant Arsenault was also quick in the medical shop to gather her own garbage bag from a cabinet: something to lie on so she wouldn’t get damp in the grass, awaiting aid for the day’s “pelvic fracture”.

Corporal Jean-Luc Germain was strapping a flesh-coloured, simulated bloody puncture injury to his own leg.

“I was in California, took a [simulated] shot in the shoulder,” he said. “They packed me up and put me in a Blackhawk [helicopter] and we took off. I said, ‘Guys, you gotta let me up—there’s no way I’m in a Blackhawk and not enjoying it!’ So they said, ‘Oh, yeah, sure, we don’t need you anymore.’ I got up off the stretcher, and we flew over the village we were attacking.”

Setting the scenario at 14 Wing everyday picnic park, SAR tech Master Cororal Alexandre Lanoix coached the victims in their particular injury’s typical behaviour, from breathing, to how much to groan, to when to escalate from seemingly okay to unconscious and “crashing”. He warned Corporal Germain that the SAR tech’s likely application of a tourniquet for his leg puncture was going to be painful “for real”.

As the air crews in the CC-130 Hercules aircraft and CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopter took off from the nearby airfield, awaiting instructions from the JRCC, the victims joked below: “No peeking!” and moved into position, draping themselves in and around two chunks of small aircraft regularly used to set up training scenarios.

With the JRCC tasking, the Hercules moved into position, taking several overhead passes and dropping a radio pack to Master Corporal Wayne Wilson, the only actively mobile victim below. His job was to talk to the aircrews above, describing the scene and the injuries to his buddies, as the Hercules dropped a larger medical kit and SAR techs prepared to land in the Cormorant.

“For us as SAR techs,” Sergeant Pothier said, “the mass casualty is the chance to triage, work with lots of casualties, extract them from awkward positions . . . . We don’t get many opportunities to do that. And, to organize and coordinate SAR techs and two aircrews and train—that’s a big thing.”

He supervised the scenario, including the placement of four “directional staff” who monitored the scene and the search and rescue response, from call-out to the last airlift of victims.

“Everyone has a couple of victims they stick with,” he said. “They watch the simulation and paint the picture for the SAR techs; we know this is not as realistic as the real thing, so we want it to go the way we want it to. They’ll take notes, see if they see anything we want to work on later. All of this is about learning points.”

Sara White is managing editor of “The Aurora”, 14 Wing’s base newspaper.


 

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