A mock disaster medical relief exercise, involving more than 80 "patients" Saturday had all the usual signs - people in shock, with broken, protruding limbs, profuse bleeding and other signs.
But some 200 medical and other participants in the drill, part of the National Disaster Medical System, calmly went about their duties at the Air National Guard Fire Station at the Salt Lake International Airport and in nine northern Utah hospitals.The training was conducted to mobilize, airlift, sort, transport, hospitalize and treat some 85 casualties, which under the scenario, were part of thousands of people injured in a massive earthquake in the Los Angeles area.
Jan Buttrey, of the Utah Department of Health's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, said the national medical system is designed to provide care for up to 100,000 casualties nationwide.
Coordinated by the Hill Air Force Base Hospital, in cooperation with the Health Department agency, the exercise called for the injured individuals to be flown into the airport on two C-140 flights. But arrangements for use of the plane did not materialize, said 2nd Lt. Denise Martin of HAFB Hospital.
If Utah or any other state were overwhelmed with medical casualties, a request could be made for federal assistance and the national system would be implemented, said Lt. Col. Mike Vojtasko, Hill AFB Hospital administrator.
"The last I heard more than 70 metropolitan areas were participating in the system. Areas participating in the system could generate more than 100,000 beds for disaster relief.
"HAFB Hospital has been designated as the federal coordinating center in this area," Vojtasko told the Deseret News.
Patients, portrayed by emergency medical service students and from Salt Lake area schools and others, were taken to the fire station and evaluated by 25 members of the 144th Evacuation Hospital, Utah National Guard, said Lt. Col. Reese Stein, the guard's public affairs officer.
Those with more serious "injuries" were airlifted by Life Flight and Air Med ambulances to hospitals. Others were transported by Gold Cross Ambulances, with ambulatory patients traveling by UTA buses.
Claude B. Stoker, a paramedic and field supervisor, Gold Cross Ambulance, was the scene commander, directing efforts in contacting hospitals and allocating patients based on their facilities and available manpower.
Lt. Col. C. David Richards, chief of professional services for the 144th Evacuation Hospital and a Salt Lake general surgeon, said he believes Salt Lake area medical facilities are generally well prepared to handle large numbers of casualty victims.
"Perhaps one of the most important contributions of this (the national) system is to make sure that you get people to where resources are available.
"To just take patients to the nearest hospital would rapidly overwhelm their resources," Richards said.
Participating medical facilities, which initiated their own in-house disaster protocols and which practiced processing and treating incoming patients, were McKay-Dee Medical Center, Ogden; Humana Davis North Hospital, Layton; Lakeview Hospital, Bountiful; LDS Hospital, University Hospital, Primary Children's Medical Center and the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Salt Lake City; Pioneer Valley Hospital, West Valley City; and Cottonwood Hospital, Murray.