In an effort to be better prepared for an actual bus crash emergency, Yolo County emergency personnel used .
Rumsey Rancheria firefighter Joseph Perez yelled, asking if anyone inside an overturned bus could hear him. As instructed, the 20 Esparto High School students played their roles as victims of a bus crash well. Some moaned, some whimpered for help, and a few who only had minor “injuries” walked out. Heather Lopez, 15, slumped over a cracked and “blood”-stained window, pretended to be lifeless. Mock injuries on the teenagers’ faces, parts of their bodies and clothes made it look like they were bleeding.
Saturday’s simulated exercise comes at the heels of a spate of high-profile bus crashes in the past year and bears many similarities to the one that killed 10 people near Williams in October.
The real-life deadly crash took place on a small farm road, with a chartered bus bound for Colusa Casino Resort carrying mostly Hmong-speaking elderly residents from the Sacramento area.
Saturday’s mock exercise took place along rural Highway 16 in Yolo County, near Cache Creek Casino Resort.
During a briefing before the drill, Rumsey Rancheria Fire Chief Michael Chandler said many lessons were learned from the fatal crash.
“One of the problems was who are our patients and where do they go?” Chandler said.
A review of the deadly crash showed failure in a communication system led to troubled transits for helicopters carrying patients. One had to hover over UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, low on fuel, because the helipad was full. Meanwhile, the paramedic coordinating transport at the scene wasn’t aware that Sutter Roseville and Mercy San Juan medical centers had helipads.
On Saturday, nurse Joaquin Franz said the agencies practiced using an electronic system that informs users of the load that each hospital can manage during a mass-casualty incident.
A paramedic at the scene would inform Franz of the extent of each patient’s injuries, and relying on the system, Franz would determine where each patient should go.
Five helicopters, including one belonging to the California Highway Patrol, were also on the scene Saturday. Paramedics practiced transporting the “victims” from the flipped bus to the helicopters.
“Training like this helps you to think a scenario through so hopefully you can come up with answers for the real event,” CHP Officer Phil Gruidl said. The CHP was one of about a dozen agencies, including several Yolo County fire departments, participating.
Other participants included volunteers from the Sacramento Regional Medical Reserve Corps, who helped evaluate the exercise and provided feedback.
Dr. Lee Welter, an anesthesiologist, was one of the volunteers. “It’s hard to know when you are doing a simulation exercise to what degree do you mimic a real-life situation?” Welter said. “All we can do is learn every time and try not to do the same mistakes.”
This type of preparation is exactly the kind of exercise first-responders can use in many different situations to be better prepared to handle the real thing.
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