The 911 call came at 6:28 p.m. Wednesday: “Attention, Tiffin Fire. We have a report of a chemical spill at Bareis Science Hall, 82 Greenfield Street. Students injured.” Fortunately, the call was only a test.
Less than 10 minutes later, two crews from the Tiffin Fire Division and two from Bascom were on scene to simulate a mass casualty triage scenario. With Mike Homan of the Tiffin Fire Division coordinating, the situation had been given an initial assessment and command had been established.
Eight of the 10 Heidelberg students who had volunteered to be “victims” for the mock chemical accident were given triage tags. Their symptoms: a burning sensation on their skin and in their eyes and throat.
Two of the “victims” – Dylan Lohr and Ally Blum – were evaluated as the most seriously injured with symptoms of chemical burns on their legs and eyes and difficulty breathing. By 6:45, they were en route by ambulance to Tiffin’s Mercy Hospital, where they went through decontamination and treatment. The other students transported themselves to the hospital for the same process.
The decontamination scenario was very real for the students as well as the first responders. Laying on a stretcher, Dylan was sprayed and scrubbed, and then taken into the ER for further treatment.
Two fire engines, parked parallel with the gap between them covered with a blue tarp, were stationed in the ER parking lot, hoses connected and ready to decontaminate the victims. The less-injured students filed through the decon chamber and then waited in the ER for further assessment.
In all, about 70 first responders either participated in the drill or converged at the emergency room entrance of Mercy Hospital to observe protocols being carried out. The simulation was conducted by the Seneca County Local Emergency Planning Committee, Heidelberg, Mercy Hospital, Tiffin Fire and Rescue and the Seneca County Emergency Management Agency.
Jeff Rhoades, director of security at Heidelberg, and Angie Giles, director of news and media relations, also participated in the drill, simulating their roles for an actual incident.
Following the drill, the participating agencies held a debriefing to access the protocols that were successful and those that need improvement.
The county agencies had been planning the drill for about six months, according to Dean Henry, public information officer for Seneca County. “The drill went exceedingly well,” Henry said, adding that evaluators from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency planned to recommend approval of the drill. Such events are required annually.
“We are particularly grateful to Heidelberg and the students who participated,” Henry said. “We can’t do these things well without ‘bodies,’ so they were invaluable to the exercise.”