LAS VEGAS -- The scene was surreal: a bus on its side with two heavily damaged vehicles smashed against it, one on its roof against a backdrop of the glitzy Las Vegas skyline, with several hundred spectators seated on bleachers watching the rescue unfold.
The training, however, was very real as emergency medical service providers, firefighters and rescue workers at the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot took place in a staged mass casualty incident as part of EMS World Expo on Wednesday evening.
In all, 35 patients, about 100 first responders and a parade of apparatus and ambulances converged on the scene of the drill which was hosted by the Clark County Fire Department. The event was organized and sponsored in large part by EMS World and its parent company Cygnus Business Media.
"It was the first time we've ever done this and I think we'll do it again," said event organizer Mary Flynn, EMS World show manager. "...We got a proposal to do a mass casualty incident in the parking lot and we decided to go for it."
Flynn said North Las Vegas Fire Department Capt. Travis Anderson was hugely instrumental in organizing and scripting the actual scenario, and making sure all the details were handled from the donated bus and the towing company that helped stage the event.
Other corporate partners, including Simulaids, Cypress Creek EMS, iSys Global, StatBand and TEEX helped sponsor the event.
With temperatures over 100 degrees, more than two dozen EMT students, all in their first week of classes, climbed inside the bus or in one of the cars, some covered with moulaged injuries.
With the stage set and cameras in place from numerous area news agencies, an alarm was sounded for a school bus accident in front of the convention center with possible injuries and entrapment. Using a North Las Vegas Police Department incident command vehicle, radio transmissions from the whole scenario were broadcast over a public address system so spectators could listen.
Narrating the event was Bruce Evans, Chief of the North Las Vegas Fire Department EMS Division.
"Whenever we have a situation like this, we usually strike a first alarm response," Evans said, noting that when units arrive on the scene, additional resources could be summoned.
And, sure enough, the first arriving units, quickly assessed the scene and determined there were more than a couple of dozen victims, some critically hurt and many of them entrapped.
"When you have a mass casualty incident, it's always best to send resources for at least five victims," Evans said.
And did they ever have more than five. When the final count was taken, there were 35 victims ranging from walking wounded to four dead at the scene.
As the severity of the incident became apparent, units from Clark County Fire Department, Henderson Fire Department, Las Vegas Department, North Las Vegas Fire Department, Henderson Fire Department, and police agencies from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, North Las Vegas Police Department and three private ambulance companies were summoned. Even a crew and heavy rescue from nearby Nellis Air Force Base participated in the drill.
Treating it like a real scene, fire units came in and took positions according to command's assignment and began going to work.
Triage was practiced immediately and those who could walk were asked to follow a firefighter out of the "hot zone" to await treatment and transport if necessary.
Other crews climbed inside the bus through three different points of entry: one roof escape hatch that was cut to be much wider for extrication and access; through the back emergency door; and through the front windshield after it was removed from the front of the bus.
Another team used hydraulic rescue tools to remove patients from a two-door sedan that remained on its wheels after it crashed into the rear of the bus. Still another team focused on the four-door sedan on its roof with one patient partially ejected and likely dead from the impact.