Training & Education

Georgia Emergency Management Agency to Lead Mass Casualty Exercise

Nearly 60 volunteers will pose as “victims” to simulate an explosion at a college basketball game.

On Saturday, July 13, nearly 60 volunteers will gather at the University of North Georgia's gym in Gainesville to participate in a full-scale mass casualty training exercise. In the exercise scenario, an explosion occurs during a college basketball game causing several injuries and fatalities.

The training exercise will be headed by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA) with other participants including the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services, Department of Public Health's Office of EMS and Trauma, and Georgia Tech to practice response to an event that could result in a high death toll. During the exercise, more than 60 volunteers will act as “victims” and wear makeup to give the illusion of having real injuries, said Lisa Janak Newman, public information officer for GEMA.

“The [responders] will be testing their communication skills; will be testing whether they can set up a command structure,” Newman said. “They’ll need to go in and assess these victims to determine who should be triaged first and taken to the staging area where they’ll be treated.”

Volunteers posing as victims will pretend to have a range of injuries like severe burns, head trauma and anything that could come from the result of an explosion. The emergency personnel will then go onto the scene and prioritize who needs medical attention first based on the severity of the injury.

Newman said “mass casualty” is typically defined as any number of patients in a short period of time with little or no warning that overwhelm a triage system and receiving hospitals. While 60 may appear to be an arbitrary number, it’s enough to overwhelm the response teams to test their capabilities.

Local emergency responders typically conduct mass casualty training exercises to prepare for unexpected events like mass shootings. In the last couple years, high-casualty events have happened in U.S. cities, including the Boston Marathon bombing in April and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December.

“The main purpose of the exercise is to test coordination skills and to make sure that the technology everybody has is working; everybody’s communicating,” Newman said.

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