Death and gore prepare Ohio medics for a real crisis
By Dean Narciso
The Columbus Dispatch
Copyright 2007 The Columbus Dispatch
All Rights Reserved
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The drab floors and block walls could have been in a Baghdad market stall, a Virginia Tech classroom or a small Pennsylvania schoolhouse.
Yesterday, they were in a post office. And there were bodies. And screams. And splashes of blood.
Mock disasters have become a staple of post-Sept. 11 training, a way to prepare rescuers for carnage they might one day face at home.
Yesterday's drill in the Ohio Army National Guard armory on Sullivant Avenue began just after 7 a.m., with makeup artists creating scrapes, gashes and bullet wounds.
The 11 "victims" were members of the guard's 134th Field Artillery Regiment and 285th Area Support Medical Company.
The rescuers were from the Franklin Township Fire Department.
"We wanted to give them a situation similar to those we've seen nationwide, without being overwhelming," said Franklin Township Fire Lt. Paul Burleigh.
Township medics were being drilled in the fire station, which is adjacent to the armory, when the call came in:
Report of a shooting in the post office, multiple victims, the gunman is dead. The engine company is delayed 90 seconds by a train.
Among the first to arrive was firefighter Matt Bocock.
"Hang in there, OK. Keep breathing," he told a victim slumped on the floor as screams came from others.
"What's your name?" Bocock asked, turning a victim on his side. "Matt?"
"That's a good name. That's my name."
Bocock left a red tag on the man, a signal to the medics who would follow that this was a life-threatening wound.
The other colors, except for black, indicated lesser injuries.
Two of the participants wore black tags, reserved for the dead.
"You're one of the first guys to go on out, so you hang in there," Bocock consoled Matt, played by Sgt. Richard Smith. Though some of the actors joked about their injuries or the fake blood, which was like a sticky syrup, Bocock was all business. He's been through a crisis before.
Bocock and his colleagues were among the first to respond to the Lincoln Park West apartment fire that claimed 10 people in 2004.
"This is something that has happened," he said of the drill. "We try to take it very seriously."
Yesterday, artists created a gunshot wound below the right ear of Michael Begin. The exit wound on the other side split a gash in his neck.
The gore, Begin said, is important.
"I've seen some similar injuries before," said the army medic who has served in Iraq. "You kind of get used to seeing this stuff over and over.
"It makes us kind of get a stomach for it," he said. That "makes it less likely you're gonna freeze" in a real crisis.
Bocock's ability to kick into a higher gear could have saved lives had the drill been a real disaster, said Robert Lowe, the fire department's medical director.