CHS drama club tests disaster response

The faux call came in at 9:27 a.m. Thursday, just after a group of Carson High students were boarding a bus to go on a field trip. Someone slipped in behind the kids and boarded the bus.

The unidentified rider, played by a drama student, turned out to be a terrorist, who took control of the bus, commandeered it and forced the driver to head to the corporate yard on Butti Way.

Something happened, the bus overturned. The terrorist, taking the driver hostage, sought refuge in a nearby building, leaving 34 injured students behind.

The emergency was a drill, paid for by a state Division of Emergency Management grant and starring members of the Carson High School drama club as victims.

But all of Carson City's emergency and school agencies responded as though it were real.

The Carson City Sheriff's Department's SWAT team sprung into action, finding the terrorist's hideout and killing him, while managing to rescue the bus driver.

At Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, a Code Yellow announcement went out over the loudspeaker, informing hospital staff that an emergency was happening, and that the command center was in the Bristlecone room.

City supervisors were getting instructions on what to do before the first student was brought in by Care Flight.

A whiteboard listed what was available and what was needed, including the amount and types of blood on hand, the number of available rooms, and the number of staff members on the job.

"We'll do an assessment of what we have and determine if we have to move patients to other places," said Henry Lucas, executive director of security for the medical center. "We will also call other hospitals and see if they can take some patients."

The first student was brought in by Care Flight, immobilized, with fake blood all over her. The emergency room went into action mode as technicians and nurses took vital signs and stabilized the patient. Her blood pressure, pulse and other information was written on a Post-it note and placed on her chest.

This action would be repeated many times Thursday as three more "patients" were brought in by helicopter as others arrived by ambulance. The least injured ambulatory students came in on a school bus, were checked in by staff and sent to the emergency room's waiting room, as the 18 treatment rooms and hallway filled with drill participants as well as real patients.

Paramedics brought in a young male with his pants cut open his leg bandaged and bloody. "Femur" the paramedic called out as he came in. "Punctured femur, possible fracture," he repeated, as the youth was wheeled to the front of the line.

Jon Tyler, marketing specialist for Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, said the point of the drill was to plan for emergency events under real conditions. He said most in the hospital were unaware until just before the students were brought in.

"They try to plan as little as possible, so that way we're unprepared and they can see how we would respond in a real emergency," he said.

Four patients came in by Care Flight, and it was up to Tony Ruggierio, of the medical center's security team, to get them safely from the rooftop helicopter pad to the emergency room.

"The first thing you do is shut the air handlers down so patients don't get fumes (from the helicopter)," he said. "You have to make sure you call the elevator before you go up the stairs, 'cause the elevator is as slow as my grandma."

After taking the first patient down, he returned to the roof to await another "hot one."

"Most people in this country don't have a clue about what can happen in a disaster," Ruggierio said, adding that he made sure to touch the patient as he rolled them to the treatment area.

"The patient is scared," he said. "They don't know how bad they're hurt; they don't know if they're bleeding inside. It's comforting to have the contact."

Mike Mitchell, director of operations for the Carson City School District, said the drama club members made excellent victims.

"They played their parts very well," he said.

In addition to the school district, and the sheriff's office, other agencies taking part in the drill include the Carson City Fire Department, Central Lyon County Fire District, East Fork Fire Protection District, Care Flight and the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong said the drill was meant to "fine tune the skills that you have and highlight the areas that need improvement."

He said there were some radio communication problems at the scene, but those were rectified quickly.

"It's a tremendous benefit," he said. "A lot of coordinating efforts were highlighted today and lots of operational and equipment issues were addressed. Overall, we did well."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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