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HCC students stage emergency drill

April 27, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Just after 9 a.m. Saturday, emergency personnel rushed through the doors of Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater to look for "victims."

In an emergency drill, they found 12 people "wounded" by three bombs, some lying on the floor with mock serious injuries and others who had received scrapes and cuts.

The drill, carried out by second-year paramedic, nursing and criminal justice students, was set up to test their skills and give college officials an idea of whether the students are ready to move on to careers in emergency services.

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About 100 people participated in the drill, the first of its kind at the college, said George Perry, coordinator of emergency services programs. Law enforcement officers from Maryland State Police, the Hagerstown Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Department, as well as hospital and fire and rescue officials, provided support for the students.

"The whole purpose is to be able to assess our students," said Linda Henesy, associate professor of nursing. "It's getting close to graduation. They're getting ready to go out in the real world.

"If it does what we think it will do, it'll be well worth it," Perry said.

While in the theater, paramedic students cleared the room of crying and shouting witnesses and then assessed the injuries of the wounded. One of the students encountered a female victim who had been lying on the steps of the stage. Her stomach was impaled by shrapnel and she was unable to move.

After determining the victim had a pulse, the student moved on to look for other patients.

A few minutes later, more students arrived to treat the shrapnel victim, who had been classified as a priority one patient, which means she had serious injuries.

Once the bomb victims had received preliminary treatment, they were taken by ambulance to the Career Programs Building, which was set up as a hospital emergency room. There, nursing students took over to treat multiple "injuries" that included chest trauma, burns, shock and panic attacks.

"I'm hoping to improve my assessment skills and to see what I've learned during the course of two years," nursing student Tammy Joia of Williamsport said. "It's going well."

Back at Kepler Theater, criminal justice students sealed off the crime scene, searched for evidence and interviewed witnesses. The students had pieces of "bombs" and shrapnel spread out on the floor to search for clues.

"I'm looking to take out the initial shock when it happens in real life," said student Aaron Horton, who plans to become a police officer. "When you're doing it now, maybe you're going to learn things that you may have overlooked in schoolwork."

Elyse Carr, 19, who played the role of a witness, said she was inside Kepler Theater when the mock bombs went off.

"I saw lots of people injured," she said. "It was craziness, pure craziness."

Carr said she thought the drill went well, but a few elements of it could be improved next year.

"Some of the interviews could've been more thorough, and they could've had more empathy," Carr said.

She said she thought the criminal justice students could have asked more detailed questions.

After the drill ended, Perry said students and college officials were pleased with the event.

"It went pretty well," Perry said. "It seemed like everybody was pretty pleased with the outcome."

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