November 30, 2010

Mock disaster will serve as students’ final exam

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A building is ablaze and people are still inside.

The goal is to save their lives -- to get them out quickly and treat their injuries. It’s a daunting mission but Southern Illinois University Carbondale students are up to the task, as they’ll demonstrate during a full-scale mock disaster on Thursday, Dec. 2.

The simulated disaster begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Firemen’s Training Center on Bigler Road in Carbondale. Students from the advanced first aid class will be showing what they’ve learned throughout the semester as they search for “victims” in a burning building, pull them to safety and treat the multiple “injuries” they’ve incurred. Although the incident isn’t actually a real fire, the scene will play out just like it would in a real fire with injured victims.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the mock disaster at the Firemen’s Training Center. To reach the center, travel east of Carbondale on old Illinois Highway 13 then south onto Bigler Road. Organizers ask that media planning to cover the drill be in place when the exercise begins at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2. For more information, contact Peggy A. Wilken, clinical assistant professor, at 618/453-1832 prior to the event.

This is the 13th year for the mock disaster drill, created to be as realistic a scenario as possible, according to Peggy A. Wilken, a clinical assistant professor at SIUC who teaches the Health Education 434 class. The exercise serves as a final exam for the 20 students in the class. Passing the test is a requirement to be a certified first responder.

“Students participating in the mock disaster will have to search and find the victims and administer proper treatment just like they would in the field. First responders are often the difference between life and death and this exercise will give them the opportunity to show that they can take control in an emergency and treat patients,” Wilken said.

The drill is the culmination of weeks of study and preparation, putting the classroom work and meticulous study to the test in a real-life disaster simulation akin to what the students may experience “on the job.” Participating paramedics, firefighters and even the “victims” will evaluate the students’ work afterward. Wilkin will also view videotapes of the event and review the performances of students, discussing observations with students in class.

Former students in the class have gone on to be athletic trainers, fire and EMS personnel and safety officers with major industries. Previous drills have included car bombs, an airplane crash, a car/train collision, a tornado, an earthquake and much more.

Agencies assisting with the mock disaster this year include the Jackson County Ambulance Service and the Carbondale Fire Department.