Are local emergency services ready for a ‘Humboldt’-sized mass casualty incident?

Local First Responders train for Major Casualty Incident
First Responders in Peterborough train constantly to be ready for a mass casualty incident like happened in Humboldt Saskatchewan

In the aftermath of the crash in Humbolt, Sask., where 16 people died and 13 suffered serious injuries, people in Peterborough are asking, “Could it happen here?”

The answer is yes, it could, and because of that, local emergency services are trained to deal with mass casualty incidents. In such events, firefighters and paramedics are trained to quickly assess the situation, which means making sure they are in a position to help the victims and not become victims themselves.

“The first thing we think about when we arrive at a mass casualty incident is the safety of our own responders so that we are able to actually help those people who need help. We are able to identify the hazards and the risks so that we don’t become part of the problem,” says Chief Chris Snetzinger, Peterborough Fire Services.

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Students enrolled in the second year of the Paramedic Program at Fleming College are exposed to a series of training scenarios that include an increasing number of casualties.

Properly trained, the first responders react to the immediate needs of the victims by assessing airway, breathing and circulation, then moving on to the next.

“There’s going to be time afterward for reflection,” says Mary Osinga, a professor in Fleming College’s Paramedic program. But the immediate focus, she says, is getting the most number of patients to survive the incident.

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‘MCI — mass casualty incidents — are a big source of post traumatic stress for first responders in general, because these are things — we are human, right? — these are things people haven’t seen before,” Osinga says.