48-hour USAR exercise for fourth year BEMC students from the Department of Emergency Medical Care at the Nelson Mandela University
On 21 to 23 August 2019 the fourth year BEMC students from the Department of Emergency Medical Care at the Nelson Mandela University participated in a high fidelity 48-hour urban search and rescue (USAR) exercise. This exercise took the form of a deployment to a neighbouring country called ‘Gwara-Gwara’, after the ‘country’ experienced a major earthquake disaster.
Rudi Menkveld provided the following feedback.
“Don’t let a patient get in the way of a good rescue! We have all heard this saying before. Fortunately this is very far from the truth, as the patient is the reason for the rescue.
In preparation for the exercise, the students had to do an assignment in which they had to plan for their ‘deployment’. The students had to draw up their camp plan, make a list of all the equipment needed and also draw up a food menu for the duration of the mission. To make it realistic, one of the assignments was used as the basis for the exercise and the students had to use the information in the assignment for the camp setup and food menu.
After setting up the camp area the ,hurry-up-and-wait, started. Students were divided into two groups of eight, one working shift from 12h00 until 00h00 and the other working from 00h00 until 12h00.
The first scenario that was given to the students was for two victims trapped under fallen concrete. A high fidelity advance life support manikin was used as the patient so that students could treat the patient as realistic as possible. The students had to triage the two patients and treat them appropriately before lifting the concrete to release. Once removed the students had to transport the patients to the base camp where treatment continued in the medical tent.
From there, various taskings were given to the students to ensure that they stay busy, similar to a real life scenario. This included for example mapping of a search area and then conducting the actual search. Once a patient was found the necessary treatment was initiated.
During the night the students had to continue to search for victims. This was done in buildings that were considered “unstable” and the students had to shore and stabilise the building before they could continue the search.
Other rescue disciplines were also integrated into the 48-hour exercise as this event was the last major exercise that the students did during the four-year BEMC programme. A simulated high-angle scenario was given to the students for a patient who was hit by a rock while abseiling. The simulated rock fall was caused by an ‘aftershock’ earthquake hitting Gwara-Gwara. The students had to respond to the area where the patient was, perform a pick-off and then treat the patient. The patient then had to be moved to the waiting ambulance.
In the afternoon, the students had another scenario that involved a vehicle with three passengers that lost control during an ‘aftershock’ and went off an embankment. Again the students had to respond to the call, triage the patients and rescue them. The patients were real-life actors and the students had to treat them as realistic as possible. Once extricated from the vehicle the patients had to be moved up the steep slope to the ambulance.
The following night the search for victims continued. Early in the evening the students had to deal with a hazardous materials (hazmat) scenario.
After the hazmat scenario, the students had to search through a pile of rubble for possible victims. They found a victim trapped under rubble by making use of an audible search. They further made use of a search camera to see how the victim was positioned under the rubble and then had to make use of a ‘step cut’ to gain access through concrete to the victim. Once they made contact with the victim, treatment commenced and the victim was moved to the base camp medical tent for further treatment.
The next morning the rescue mission was concluded. The camp was packed up and everyone returned to their ‘home country’ after a challenging 48 hours in ‘Gwara-Gwara’.”
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