Monroe hosts mass casualty drill, sharpens first responders’ skills

First responders from Monroe and other towns participate in an exercise on Fireman's Field. Monroe Volunteer Fire Co. photos

An horrific four-vehicle-crash left 12 people injured, nine of them with serious injuries. Emergency responders from Monroe and nearby towns encountered screaming victims trapped inside damaged vehicles, including a crying baby, and tended to one patient who was ejected from the impact and landed in the woods.

One of the vehicles rolled over and firefighters had to perform extrications, so emergency medical service personnel could reach victims desperately in need of care.

Thankfully, this was only a mock scenario in a mass casualty training session at Monroe’s Fireman’s Field on Sunday, May 19. The victims were actors and the baby was a mannequin.

A baby mannequin and crying on an audible loop added to the realism of sights and sounds at emergency scenes.

Monroe Fire Chief Kevin Catalano and Monroe Volunteer EMS Deputy Chief Rachel Murphy worked together to organize the drill, and Catalano said they didn’t share what the scenario would be ahead of time, nor what team responders would be working with, to increase the realism of the response.

Even Stevenson Fire Chief John Howe, who served as incident commander, and EMS Captain Keith Hensel, who was EMS commander, were kept in the dark until the exercise was underway.

Catalano said the exercise is designed to present a high level of difficulty so first responders are prepared for the real thing.

“Volunteer first responders put forth a massive, well-coordinated effort and rescued, triaged, and packaged all 12 ‘victims’ into ambulances within 35 minutes of arrival, well exceeding drill organizers’ expectations and our prior drill results,” he said.

Following the operations, all participants debriefed in the classroom of the firehouse on Shelton Road, reviewing what went well and areas for future improvement, then had lunch together.

Catalano said participants wrote on sticky notes to share their feedback, which will help in the planning of a larger scale exercise including more agencies next year.

He wants these training sessions to be held at least every two years.

The last time the town had hosted one was in July of 2021, but Catalano said it was on a smaller scale with just firefighters and EMS.

A ‘chaotic, high energy environment’

Volunteers played the roles of crash victims amid a frenzy of activity. Monroe Volunteer Fire Co. photo

Catalano expressed his gratitude to everyone who made last Sunday’s exercise happen, including volunteer firefighters from Monroe, Stevenson and White Hills, volunteer EMTs from Monroe and Easton, and the Southwest Regional Communications Center.

Logistical support was provided by the Monroe Fire Department’s Womens’ Auxiliary, Monroe EMT program students and other residents acting as victims and bystanders, the Monroe Police Department, Jerry’s Towing and Bud’s Towing, according to Catalano.

Four ambulances and six fire trucks were used in the drill. Catalano said they also spoke with St Vincent’s Medical Center and Bridgeport and Griffin hospitals to determine how many trauma patients each hospital could accept.

Ellen Stansfield, an EMT student at Monroe EMS, was a volunteer “victim” in the mock crash.

“Being able to participate as a volunteer victim to help the first responders in Monroe and surrounding towns practice their skills in a chaotic, high energy environment was, for me, such a great experience,” she said. “Being a victim gives you a whole new view of the services and how important it is to be able to work as a cohesive team. I would volunteer again and again to help everyone practice their skills to make real situations that they get called to that much easier to handle.”

“Even though every situation is different, having some experience before allows you to feel more confident and prepared during the real thing,” she added.

James O’Shaughnessy, a Monroe EMS volunteer, was among the participants. He is no stranger to large scale incidents. O’Shaughnessy took his EMT class with Monroe EMS and has been volunteering in town since 2020, while also working for American Medical Response in Waterbury.

Firefighters perform an extrication to free victims entrapped inside a vehicle. Monroe Volunteer Fire Co. photo

“I was thrilled to be a part of this remarkable experience and extremely grateful to the town, the fire department, and EMS chiefs for assembling such an intricate and multifaceted drill,” he said. “Getting over 50 people organized including fire and EMS, local hospitals, neighboring emergency services, and our dispatch center is a great display of our community and dedication to being the best we can be. Each individual has a variety of experience, and getting the chance to learn from, and with, each other is nothing short of spectacular.”

Monroe Volunteer EMS Deputy Chief Rachel Murphy said, “this training opportunity was the perfect way to kick off EMS Week. The theme of this year’s EMS Week is honoring those who came before us, especially those who challenged the status quo, and looking forward to the future generations of providers.”

“Connecting with our colleagues in other towns and agencies helps us to continue developing our skills, making us stronger responders for Monroe, and the region, and ensuring the next generation of first responders are prepared,” Murphy added.

Monroe’s three volunteer fire companies —Stepney, Monroe and Stevenson — and the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service are always looking for new members. Those interested in joining the EMS should email [email protected] and those interested in being a firefighter should email [email protected].

All respectful comments with the commenter’s first and last name are welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog

The Monroe Sun covers all of the news of Monroe, CT

Follow Us

© Copyright 2023, The Monroe Sun LLC