December 01, 2011

Annual mock disaster will test students’ skills

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Can anyone save them in time or will they go down to a watery grave?

The plan is for Southern Illinois University Carbondale student “rescuers” to respond quickly to pull the “victims” to safety and, if necessary, resuscitate them and treat their injuries.  Nobody is really in danger though, as the Dec. 8 mock disaster is actually a unique, hands-on training experience as well as the final exam for Health Education 434/Advanced First Aid students in the Emergency Medical Responder health education class taught by Peggy A. Wilken, assistant clinical professor. 

Beginning at 9:30 a.m., multiple scenarios will play out in the pool at Pulliam Hall. Perhaps a canoe capsizes, slinging people into the water.  Or maybe someone dives into shallow water, suffering head and spine injuries.   Exactly what scenes Wilken’s students will encounter are, as in real life, a surprise.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the mock disaster at the Pulliam pool on Dec. 8.  Organizers request that media planning to cover the drill be in place when the exercise begins at 9:30 a.m.  It will conclude about 11 a.m.  For more information, contact Peggy A. Wilken, assistant clinical professor, at 618/453-1832 or by email at prior to the event. 

This is the 14th annual mock disaster drill and, as usual, painstaking efforts go into assuring that the scenario is as realistic as possible for the dozen University students, Wilken said. 

“The students will search and locate the victims and then administer proper treatment just as they would in the field in a real life situation.  Emergency Medical Responders frequently make the difference between life and death and this mock disaster offers our students the chance to demonstrate that they can respond properly, take control of an emergency situation and provide life-saving care,” Wilken said. 

Students must pass the test in order to be a certified Emergency Medical Responder.  Participants from the Jackson County Ambulance Service will evaluate how the students handle themselves during the mock disaster.  Afterward, Wilken will also review videotapes of the event with her students and talk with them about her observations and the reviewers’ comments.

In previous years, the drills have included an airplane crash, a car/train collision, a tornado, an earthquake, a car bomb and other true-to-life disasters but this is the first time it has taken place in the water, Wilken said.  Students successfully completing the course have gone on to be athletic trainers, fire and EMS personnel and safety officers in major industries.

Agencies assisting with the 2011 mock disaster include the Jackson County Ambulance Service, the Center for Environmental Health and Safety Services and lifeguards from the Student Recreation Center.