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This was only a drill

April 24, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Matt Largent knelt by his "victim," who was acting out a scenario in which she had been shot in the chest Saturday as part of a mass-casualty drill.

Largent, 27, of Martinsburg, W.Va., put direct pressure on his victim's chest - presumably where she had been shot - and checked her vital signs while trying to get the attention of other workers so he could get the woman into an ambulance.

When ambulance crew members finally arrived, Largent gave them the basics.

"She's got a gunshot wound to the chest. ... No exit wound. She's got a distended abdomen," which Largent said was getting worse by the minute, at least according to the script he was working from.

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Largent was one of about 150 students who took part in the drill at Hagerstown Community College. Emergency service, nursing, criminal justice and radiology students from the college, paramedic students from The Community and Technical College of Shepherd and cadets from the Western Maryland Training Academy took part in the drill.

David Yohman, an HCC professor who helped organize the drill, said this was the third annual drill held at the school. It was meant to give students training that is closer to real life than classroom instruction, he said.

This year's scenario began at 9 a.m., when college President Guy Altieri, who took part in the drill, "discovered" the first "victim" of the day.

An actress portrayed a maintenance worker who had been forced to open the president's office by a perpetrator, who then rummaged through the president's confidential files.

Student EMTs attended to the victim, while criminal justice students and Western Maryland Training Academy cadets worked on solving the case.

As the plot unfolded, the perpetrator then went to a mock ceremony, where he "shot" several people inside the Kepler Theater, then "shot" himself in a nearby parking lot.

As the victims piled up, they first were attended to by student paramedics and EMTs, then nurses and radiology students.

Just to shake things up a bit, the crafters of the drill included a separate incident at the Student Activities Building in which a fight broke out, further testing police trainees, Yohman said.

Each part of the drill had instructors and expert volunteers who were taking notes and marking the students' performance.

Hagerstown City Police Lt. Michael King was observing the Kepler Theater incident and helped develop this year's drill. He said he thought that part of the drill was taking the students to task.

"This is like throwing them to the wolves," King said.

Other students didn't have it as difficult. Some played eyewitnesses, others simply were onlookers, but their roles were important for the criminal justice students to learn crowd control.

Kathy Keech, 52, of Frederick, Md., was one such onlooker. She didn't mind her role wasn't one of the active ones. She is nearing the end of a condensed nursing program and said the added stress wasn't necessary.

"We have to finish next week. It's OK," Keech said.

Near the end of the drill, Largent said he thought the drill served him well.

"I guess it went pretty well - pretty hectic sometimes," Largent said. "This is a pretty major incident for training. You always train for the worst."

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