S.C. Holding Mass Casualty Drill at Columbia Airport

6:50 PM, Apr 16, 2013   |    comments
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By Robert Kittle (WLTX)  One day after the bombings in Boston, South Carolina emergency responders started two days of training drills to make sure they're ready to handle a mass-casualty disaster. 

The drill was planned about a year ago, along with the imaginary disaster the crews would be responding to: a bomb explosion at a packed Bank of America stadium in Charlotte.

What went through emergency responders' minds when they heard about the bombings in Boston and saw the video, the day before they were going to be training for almost the exact same thing?

 "We weren't surprised," says Jeff Straub, Emergency Manager/Safety Officer for the Spartanburg Regional Health Care System and the person in charge of the drill. "It's unfortunate and we hate that anyone was injured, but I think it solidifies why we do these exercises and the importance that it can happen anywhere: Boston, Greenville, Columbia.  Any of those areas, if there's a threat, we need to deal with those accordingly."

More than 150 people from the military, state and local agencies, and 14 regional hospitals are taking part in the two-day exercise at Columbia Metropolitan Airport.  

The exercise is part of the National Disaster Medical System, which is activated if a disaster is so large that it overwhelms a local area's ability to provide sufficient medical aid.

Under this scenario, some of the people in Charlotte hospitals would be moved to Columbia so the bombing casualties could be treated in Charlotte.

On day one of the drill, participants walked through how they would get the patients off of airplanes, into a hangar, assessed and then routed to Columbia-area hospitals. 

On Wednesday, two military transport planes filled with actors and mannequins will land at the airport and the responders will go through a more realistic exercise, actually taking the "patients" off the planes and taking care of them.

One of those going through the drills is Peggy Holt of Columbia, who's a member of the Medical Reserve Corps, a group of volunteers with medical backgrounds. 

The bombings in Boston changed her perspective on the training. "Makes me pay attention a lot closer, take it a lot more seriously and see what other things that we could do to improve," she says.

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