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Students help with mock bus crash training; Youth stand in as crash victims and take on role of news media

By Staff | Mar 18, 2008

Cape Coral area high school students played the parts of injured victims and newspaper journalists as area emergency personnel practiced response to a mock school bus accident Monday.

The mass-casualty incident, or MCI drill, took place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m in a parking lot of Edison Community College in Fort Myers with nearly 60 students from Ida S. Baker High School and a number of emergency response personnel participating.

It was one of three sessions to take place this week. East Lee High School students will participate today from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and South Fort Myers High School kids will take part in the drill on Wednesday.

Sue Roshon, assistant director of Technical Career and Adult Education, said Monday that the participating students were those in Ida S. Baker’s medical, fire, and criminal justice academies. There were also those from the television production and journalism academies to take video and pictures and to participate as mock news reporters.

“They get the opportunity to see what kinds of jobs they’re going into,” said Roshon.

Lauri McMahon, Iona-McGregor Fire Department spokesperson, said the students learned to communicate with public information officers on scene, were given press passes and releases, and got an opportunity to learn on-scene reporting.

“One thing I learned is, as a reporter I should always have a pencil and paper,” joked Emily Zanolli, a 16-year-old junior in Ida S. Baker’s journalism academy. “It was different than I thought it would be; there was more action.”

Emily’s friends and fellow journalists-in-training, sophomores Kelsey Mcdonald, 16, and Victor Hagenbucher, 15, accompanied her during the event.

“I learned that the people who do all the reporting have to get on the scene really quick, and to ask questions other people might not ask to try to get the exclusive,” said Victor.

Many area agencies participated in the drill, including South Trail Fire Department, Iona-McGregor Fire Department, Fort Myers Fire Department, Lehigh Acres Fire Department, San Carlos Fire Department, Lee County EMS, Lee County School Board members and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, for a total of 65 personnel on scene.

McMahon said the drill was a hands-on training opportunity for the participating agencies, stating that they can “make all their mistakes today” so they get it right in real-life scenarios. She said the workers practice how to manage and take care of the victims, how to identify them and which have been taken to hospitals, and how to assess injuries and who to treat first.

The drill is also an opportunity for the district to learn to properly coordinate rescue efforts, added Roshon.

Rick Maness, an instructor for Ida S. Baker’s criminal justice academy, said many of the students played the part of injured bus passengers for emergency crews to assess and help.

“Several students had back injuries, contusions, severe lacerations,” said Maness about the fake crash. “One student had a broken pelvis; there was one fatality.”

Maness said about 15 to 20 of the students played the parts of those with injuries in need of transport.

“They got the opportunity to see the chaos that goes on in something like this,” said Maness. “There is always going to be some chaos, and I think that’s an important part of this training.”

Firefighter Ruben Castro with the South Trail Fire Department is one of those who participated in the drill on Monday. The 17-year fireman’s role was to assess injuries and conduct “ribbon triage,” assigning colors to each student based on the severity of their injuries as the first on the bus.

“Initially, we’re going in with a different mind set,” said Castro.  He said if the accident were real, “the excitement level would be up,” but the rest would be the same.

Castro said on scene they were looking for an overall view of the situation, then a more specific view so they could separate the more serious injuries by classifying them.  He said it is important for workers to get to the less seriously injured first so they can move them and treat severe injuries.

“(The kids) did a great job,” said Castro. “We tried to keep it light. They played their roles.”

There were a number of fire trucks and ambulances from the various agencies, as well as a police mobile command unit present for Monday’s drill.