Members of the Douglas County Search and Rescue team deployed to Castlewood Canyon State Park early morning Oct. 17 for a mass casualty incident training exercise.
The scenario consisted of a large group of individuals who succumbed to the …
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The scenario consisted of a large group of individuals who succumbed to the effects of a lightning strike while on a hike at the canyon. The victims had theatrical makeup applied to create realistic looking injuries and acted out their injuries, to add to the realism of this staged event.
The all-volunteer rescue team responded to the scene, assessed the situation, treated the wounded and organized relief efforts, prioritizing and managing the crisis amid the chaos.
“The whole intent of this is to overwhelm the team,” said Travis Baker, field team member who organized the training. “Usually, like last night, we have one subject and we had 10-12 rescuers that go out. But when there are situations like this scenario, with 18 subjects, the resources become very strained and we can't operate in a mode that we're used to operating in. It's important for us to train in that mode once in a while because stuff like this does happen.”
The simulation situation reflected very closely to the lightning strike that injured 16 people this summer at Mount Bierstadt. From 2005-14, Colorado was the third highest in the nation for lightning-caused fatalities, with 17 people killed by lightning.
“It's not that we're training for a lightning strike, it's that we're training for any scenario that involves enough victims to cause us to be overwhelmed,” Baker said.
Douglas County Search and Rescue is a nonprofit, all volunteer team dedicated to providing search, rescue and emergency response to the citizens of Douglas County. It was formed in September of 1998 and deployed on its first mission Feb. 10, 1999, when two dirt bike riders were missing in Rampart Range. The missing bikers were located cold, but alive, in near-blizzard conditions by team members.
Bill Clendenning, who has been a team member since the unit was formed in 1998, said that the Castlewood Canyon scenario was unique because of the number of casualties required the rescue team to problem solve how to get the mass of people down from atop the canyon.
“We never know what's going to happen and the more experience the team has, the better equipped we are to deal with any incident that comes up,” Clendenning said. “If we do come up with a mass casualty, we've experienced that. If we come up with something less, we can put that knowledge and training into play.”
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