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Student 'patients' help Vaughn firefighters train for mass-casualty incident

Vaughn Volunteer Fire Department trains for mass casualty incident
Posted at 8:11 PM, Nov 18, 2023

VAUGHN — The Vaughn Volunteer Fire Department and volunteer students practiced a mass casualty incident at Vaughn School.

In order to be prepared for any possible scenario, the fire department sets up training exercises so they can practice going through the motions, learning where they can improve.

“Today's training was a mass casualty over at Vaughn school,” Chance Ostberg, EMT with Great Falls Emergency Services said, “It was carbon monoxide, and it was… a joint training between a couple of different agencies. We had Teton County join us as well. It went over communication, some mutual aid, and just kind of what we would do if that situation did arise.”

Due to the size of the Vaughn Fire Department, a mass casualty incident would result in help from surrounding towns coming to aid. This can lead to communication issues and extra stress on the situation.

“These trainings are important because it gets us all together,” Ostberg said, “The team that trains together will function well under the high stress environments, and training under different scenarios will also better prepare us for when those situations arise.”

To add an extra layer of realism, volunteer students from CMR were scattered around the school, covered in fake blood and injuries. Some were instructed to show specific symptoms, play dead, and even resist orders from the firefighters.

Vaughn Volunteer Fire Department trains for mass casualty incident
Vaughn Volunteer Fire Department trains for mass casualty incident

“Like we had a couple people that were, like, screaming about dead people and trying to kind of frazzle the fire department because it helps them with their training,” Caroline, one CMR student said.

The students were a part of the group HOSA, which is a club for students who are interested in becoming health care professionals in the future.

“It kind of shows you a side of health care that we don't do a lot with,” Caroline said, referring to the training, “I mean, we volunteer and, like, give gift baskets to the fire department every now and then, but we don't really get to see what they actually do. So it was a good experience for everybody.”

While the training was serious and done well, everyone was in good spirits after the students were “saved” from danger. The parking lot in front of Vaughn School was full of laughing “victims” and firefighters alike.

“It actually was really fun,” Caroline said, “I didn't know if I was going to be good at being a dead person… keeping a straight face. But I managed to do it.”