When we go through our training, especially EMS training we focus on taking care of the sick or injured person. A normal crew of two or three gets a routine going to get that patients history, medications, and pertinent facts. It doesn’t take long to get into a routine with a regular crew and before long, it becomes automatic. It’s a whole different story when your crew of two or three walks up to a scene with multiple victims.
One particular incident sticks in my memory when it comes to multiple victim incidents. It was early in the morning, about 6:30 am and we got a call for an injured person at a construction scene. The location was vague and by the time the exact location was determined, we were on the scene but in a neighboring town. Expecting to see an injured construction worker we were a little surprised to find six construction workers trapped under walls of rebar that were the framework for a large tank at a water treatment plant. The portion of wall that was laying on the workers was about 20 feet by 75 feet, and none of the workers were near the edge. The most difficult part was getting to the workers because we couldn’t walk on or lift the metal framing without a part of the wall pushing onto one of the workers. We were able to access the victims and found a couple broken legs, one broken arm, a few scrapes, and since all the workers could answer our questions, we knew they weren’t critical.
We decided to use cribbing under the rebar and work our way towards the injured workers. Once we got close enough to the workers, we cut the rebar and got them out. One challenge was the crews arriving later all tried to pass us up and get to the victims. It was a little chaotic until we could slow down the incoming crews and get them involved in our plan.
Bus accidents can also become a nightmare, even with no injuries. A load of kids that get in an accident can mean a mountain of paperwork and lots of release forms. Some departments have procedures that allow a school administrator to sign off for the whole bunch of kids. I’m not sure how that would play out in a court room.
The multiple incident calls throw us off because we get accustomed to certain things happening. Another call involved a large number of kids at an indoor water park where there was a chlorine leak. There was not a lot of seriously injured kids but when you have a bunch of wet nine year olds on a field trip and it is 10 degrees outside, you aren’t really working with anything normal. We were able to move them to a nearby building and get some dry clothes to them. Once the kids were removed it was a simple call.
The best thing to do with multiple victim calls is to separate the different parts of the call and have crews deal with just one part. You can best deal with a lot of patients by having a lot of firefighters there to help, and having enough help is easier to manage.
By John Morse
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