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Islanders participate in airport disaster drill

By Staff | Oct 22, 2009

Last Thursday, Sanibel and Captiva volunteers for the Southwest Florida Medical Reserve Corps played a major role in a full scale disaster drill at the Southwest Florida International Airport.

The drill scenario involved a major aircraft accident with multiple casualties and fatalities. An Airbus with 229 passengers and seven crew members was attempting to make landing when their right gear collapsed. The aircraft made a crash landing, with numerous passengers receiving injuries from the impact and more injuries occured during evacuation when people attempted to evacuate the aircraft. Panic broke out after a passenger yelled that there was a fire under the wing and the aircraft was going to explode.

“This was the largest full scale exercise that Lee County Port Authority has ever engaged in,” said Lisa LeBlanc Hutchings, Air Command Center and EOC manager of Southwest Florida International Airport.

The drill, conducted every three years at the airport, involved all major elements of the Lee County emergency management system, including the airport’s fire and rescue service, several Lee County fire departments and Lee Emergency Medical Services.

Fire and EMS personnel initiated medical triage at the scene of the crash and patients were separated into groups based on severity of their conditions and ambulatory status.

The Southwest Florida MCR acted as medical and psychological triage and provided treatment of more than 75 ambulatory patients.

In total, 153 volunteers participated in the drill, including those with the Medical Reserve Corps.

The Sanibel-Captiva Chapter of the Medical Reserve Corps was well represented by a dozen members including, Drs Ray and Pat Santucci, Keith Johnson and Sharon and Bob Brace.

“The drill met all of our expectations and served as an invaluable training aid,” Brace said.

“This was a great training opportunity for us and a real positive for the community,” said Dr Pat Santucci, Medical Dirctor of SW Florida MRC.

The MRC had been active in the planning this exercise for almost 10 months.

All MRC volunteers are disaster trained and credentialed. Sponsored by the Lee County Health Department, the MRC is a faction of Lee County’s emergency management system.

The SW Florida MRC is designed to bring together practicing and retired healthcare professionals – physicians, nurses, hospital and public health workers, mental health experts and other medical professions – but according to the organization’s Web site, volunteers without a background in medical training are also needed. The Southwest Florida MCR works with State and County health departments and emergency management agencies in counties across Southwest Florida, including Lee, Hendry, Glades and Charlotte.

MCR volunteers are recruited to help these various communities respond during disasters, emergencies or terrorist attacks. Volunteers also assist with public health initiatives, such as widespread immunization efforts during disease outbreak.

For more information about Southwest Florida Medical Reserve Corps, visit www.swflmrc.org.