Nursing students from Great Bay Community College asked to Participate in Drill Simulating Mass Casualty to Evaluate Emergency Preparedness

10/28/2015 by Lisa Proulx

HAMPTON BEACH, NH - On October 7, the NH Department of Health and Human Services organized a mass casualty drill to evaluate emergency preparedness of the NH Seacoast Region in the event of chemical exposure of a large amount of civilians.  Forty nine Great Bay Community College second year nursing students served as participant victims of the drill which simulated an imaginary chemical exposure occurring during the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival.

According to Lorraine Mancuso, nursing faculty at Great Bay Community College ,  a  mass casualty is any incident in which emergency medical services resources, including ambulance, police, fire, and hospital personnel and are overwhelmed by the number and severity of casualties and resources such as space to care for the injured, equipment, supplies and medications may be inadequate or insufficient.  “This is the third year that we have participated in a mass casualty incident” said Mancuso, but this is by far the most complex drill we have experienced.” 

During the event, each nursing student received a participant information card explaining which symptoms they were expected to demonstrate to the EMTs and paramedics on site.  A triage area was set up where EMS personnel rated student’s injuries.  The victims were then "decontaminated" by firefighters simulating use of the fire hose to wash the chemical contaminates from their clothing.  Students then were transported to one of four area hospitals via bus or ambulance where they were "treated" in accordance with their facility objectives for the exercise.  After the drill was over, The National Guard was also on site at the staging area to "decontaminate" the area.  Nursing clinical faculty from GBCC were also on site at each hospital in the event of student need. 

At the conclusion of the drill, students participated in a debriefing session with area EMS, hospital representatives, the National Guard and NH DHHS staff.   A private debriefing followed for the GBCC nursing students, facilitated by Mancuso and fellow nursing faculty, Carrie Marchand, to focus on the nurse's role during a mass casualty.

“Students universally agreed that this was an invaluable learning experience.” said Mancuso. “Not only did they gain a deeper understanding of the role of integrated systems, communication and collaboration in promoting public safety but also had a new perspective on understanding the role of the nurse during a disaster.”