HOULTON — It was a scene of broken bones, gashed heads and bruised bodies, but when it was over everyone could smile. The best part about disaster drills is that what’s learned is permanent.
The disaster drill held Thursday in Houlton simulated a collision between a school bus and a small dump truck at the corner of County Road and Mooers Road. About a dozen students from Hodgdon High School and Southern Aroostook Community School served as victims for the crash.
With makeup known as moulage applied by an Brent Perkins of the Maine Army National Guard’s 314th Medical Co. of Millinocket, the victims looked the part. A few practiced moans and groans and they were ready for action.
According to Bob Jones, director of the Aroostook County Emergency Management Agency, the drill was part of the accreditation process for Houlton Regional Hospital.
“The hospital needs to have two (drills) a year for accreditation,” he said. “We encourage the communities to have one a year. It works better if they work together.”
Participating in the drill with the hospital were members of the Houlton police, fire and ambulance departments and the U.S. Border Patrol.
Jones, who served as an observer, described the drill as a good example of cooperation among departments.
“You did an outstanding job getting those patients out of there in an hour,” he told the rescue units during the critique that followed the event. “Everybody cooperated. Nobody just stood back and watched.”
Kitty Wells of Aroostook EMS, another observer, also praised the emergency workers.
“Individuals patient care was excellent,” she said. “Everyone was given advanced life-support treatment.”
She pointed out that in the pre-hospital care, there were some lapses in procedure for mass-casualty incidents. She attributed that partly to the fact that emergency medical crews were shorthanded because one ambulance had been dispatched on a real call just before the drill.
It was suggested that some mass-casualty training be given to firefighters as part of their regular training to avoid confusion at any future incidents.
On the hospital end, Paul Forrest, safety director of Houlton Regional Hospital, said things went very smoothly there, despite the fact that the emergency room was in use at the time.
Ann Joy of the hospital’s respiratory therapy department noted that compared with other drills, people were not in the way of each other.