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Only on 12: Medical students get hands-on training in Augusta disaster drill


Future doctors practiced emergency skills in a drill on Friday. (WRDW-TV / July 15, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday July 15, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It sounds real and looks real, but it's not real. It's just a drill, but not everyone is pretending. Local medical students are treating it like the real thing.

It was a busy morning for some emergency medical students at Georgia Health Sciences University.

The future doctors are learning how to react if something goes wrong at a sporting event.

With the Augusta Southern Nationals drag boat racing event back in town, emergency crews have to be ready in case something goes wrong.

It's the last thing anyone wants to think about, but emergency crews must be ready for an explosion, crash or disaster of any type.

Sirens wail and people are screaming, over the radio you can hear: "Dispatch receiving multiple 911 calls about an explosion at a sporting event, between 40 to 50 injured people."

It's something no one expects, but future doctors are expected to know exactly how to react to a mass-casualty event. This is their chance to practice.

"I think we all know over the last 10 years or more that terrorists are out there, and disasters can happen -- both natural disasters and man-made disasters. Obviously, the more you to do prepare for them, the better equipped you'll be when something does happen," said first-year emergency medical resident Charlie Moore.

This drill is set at a sporting event, similar to the Augusta Southern Nationals, which is in town over the weekend.

"Can you move this leg?" One student asks an actor/patient.

The students must triage patients, putting them into categories based on their conditions.

"If you can hear me, put your arm in the air," shouts one future doctor.

It's something now standard for responders all over the country.

"If you have mass casualties, you ideally need a standardized approach to the response; that's been lacking until these courses emerged approximately 10 years ago," said Jack Horner with The National Disaster Life Support Foundation at GHSU.

It's also about reacting to change.

"In a disaster situation, you're just not going to have everything you need," said Lindsey Anthony, the Chief of Disaster and Emergency Management at GHSU.

Just when the students think everything's under control, new challenges present themselves.

"I'm going to blow everybody up," shouts an actor pretending to wield a bomb. "I'm going to push this button."

"Let's talk about it," attempts a student.

"No, I don't want to talk about it, let's talk about pushing this button," says the actor.

The lesson in the end ... is just to be ready.

"It's to practice, it's to get better. It's to know what our response is, looks like and how we're going to coordinate that so if and when it should occur ... we can do better," Anthony said.

Experts say two past disasters that have really helped structure these classes are Sept. 11, 2001, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Bombings. Two events where things went wrong, and triage training could have helped.

This group of students today is still in training, but GHSU says there will be plenty of responders ready to go at the boating event all weekend.

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