Med Group rehearses disaster response with state agencies

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 173rd Medical Group practiced giving life-saving care to a large number of injured in an Oregon Disaster Medical Team sponsored exercise at Lake of the Woods, Ore., May 30-31. A number of other agencies participated including the 304th Rescue Squadron in Portland, Ore., local law enforcement, and first responders.

The scenario unfolded over two days and involved first locating the accident site and then responding to a large number of injured patients, in this case 26 medical dummies decorated with moulage simulating bleeding and various injuries. The accident scenario featured a bus overturned in a remote forest area. Responders assessed each patient and practiced triage, the process of directing care to those who need it the most and medical transport to a staging area where more sophisticated care was available.

Interagency cooperation provided the bedrock for the exercise, mirroring the aftermath of a real emergency response here in the State of Oregon. ODMT planners even brought in ham radio operators to keep communication lines open even with the loss of cell phone towers, land lines and other means of communication. Those radio operators have proven their value in real-world situations like the 2011 flooding of Vernonia, Ore., and surrounding area, when all other communication, save their own, failed. Since then, many emergency response exercises are designed to include their capability.

In addition to valuable integration, Kingsley medical troops took the opportunity to leverage the event and integrate their go-bag concept. The 173rd Medical Group recently added a significant first response capability instituting a program they call the Medical Rapid Response Team. The overall capability is more than a bag, however and refers to a light and lean response designed to bridge the 72-hour gap known to exist in reaching those in crisis.
The bags themselves are backpacks outfitted with enough medical supplies, food and shelter to make a team of 25 or more people self-sustaining for three days. The concept is the brainchild of Col. Robert Gentry, the State Air Surgeon for the Oregon National Guard and formerly the 173rd Fighter Wing Medical Group Commander.

"One of the biggest threats we face in Oregon is an earthquake on the coast followed by a significant tsunami," Gentry said. "This equipment package leverages us to be able to respond in a short amount of time with a minimum amount of difficulty to wherever we are needed within those first few hours when casualties are getting sicker or dying."

And so the thinking went for this mass-casualty exercise 'why not utilize the go-bags?' May 30 found Senior Master Sgt. Jarod Taylor dropping off a large stack of the black bags and the medical folks pulling out tents, sleeping bags and mats in preparation for the evening. The next morning they awoke and continued the exercise, assisting the local emergency responders fostering cooperation across four different first response organizations, and honing the new capability to respond on short notice.