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MRC plays integral role at vigilant guard exercise

By Teddy Solberg

On May 3, the final day of a three-day Vigilant Guard statewide exercise, a handful of MRC volunteers joined the Oregon National Guard, Lane County Fire Department, and other public safety agencies at the Eugene Airport to practice and improve patient tracking during a disaster.

More than 130 Guard members volunteered as mock victims, assuming roles as injured civilians in a stadium collapse scenario. The emergency service organizations worked together to successfully triage, transport, and track these victims.

“The important thing is cooperation between some really very different organizations, and being able to integrate together, to account for everybody, and to use your resources in the best possible way so you can do the most with as little as you have,” said Peggy Pierson, logistics chief for the Oregon Disaster Medical Team. “This exercise builds relationships, and one day this will pay off in a very big way for us.”

The exercise originally called for patients to be loaded onto C130 military aircraft scheduled to land during the simulation, but, unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. Pierson, however, embraced the less-than-perfect conditions.

“This is like what happens in a real disaster. Plans change, and you have to be flexible, and it means you have to be able to manage your patients in the interim, until the transportation arrives. It’s a good thing.”

The Vigilant Guard, a major national emergency exercise put on by the U.S. Northern Command, organized the three-day event. The first day simulated a tornado touchdown in southeast Salem, and the second featured Blackhawk helicopters evacuating patients from the University of Oregon campus.

Susan Aarseth, Clackamas County MRC volunteer and a 30-year occupational health nurse, participated in the last two days of the event. She was particularly active during the stadium collapse simulation.

“I evaluated victims, and got them transported off-site. I also went on a reconnaissance to get patients, where I did casualty evaluations and sent them back to the hospital waiting area to be treated and sent away,” said Aarseth. “This has been an eye-opening event, and it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s very important for the communications to all come together during a large-scale disaster.”

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