Saginaw County paramedics and hospitals are more prepared for a 100-car pileup on the Zilwaukee Bridge in a snowstorm. About 200 students from local high schools and Saginaw Valley State University participated in the exercise, volunteering to play victims with varying injuries. The disaster simulation was at Servpro, 470 Adams, underneath the bridge.
Volunteers applied makeup to the students displaying their assigned injuries. Some students were given injuries such as broken bones and lacerations.
"We're preparing for things that you don't want to prepare for because you don't want it to happen. But it sharpens our skills in case this ever does happen. It prepares us all and it's good for all of the communities to work together," said Zilwaukee City Administrator Jeff Zittel.
Several vehicles from a wrecking lot were strewed around as if they had crashed and slid. Students scattered themselves around and in between the cars. There were about 12 organizations participating including the Zilwaukee police and fire departments, Buena Vista Fire Department, Frankenmuth Fire Department and the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department. Covenant Medical Center, St. Mary's of Michigan, LifeNet and several other agencies will transported victims to hospitals by ambulance, bus and helicopter.
"It makes it realistic for the firefighters and medics when the students get into their roles," said Kay Lapp, Covenant Healthcare Safety Officer.
Firefighters practiced extrication from the vehicles with crash-test bodies once students were cleared from around the cars.
Rachel Little, of Midland, is a SVSU nursing student who participated in the drill. Her assigned injury was a forehead laceration. "It's been fun all morning. The disaster is just getting started so I'm excited," she said. Her classmate, Brittany Fales, said her injury was severe leg pain. She pointed out she was trying to hold back laughter at a woman assigned to act like a drunken mother looking for her daughter.
Homeland Security Region 3 Information Coordinator Rick Lively said these exercises are important to the entire region. "We need to make sure we have a plan, and that the plan is accurate and will work. This simulation allows us to review and address any weaknesses or problems we see throughout the day," Lively said. Hospitals were preparing for the large amount of patients while the medics were at the scene, Lapp said.
The disaster scenario was decided Feb. 9, just hours before a snowstorm caused about 65 car crashes on Interstate 75 near the Zilwaukee Bridge.