Virginia first responders train for mass casualty incidents

First responders in Prince William County, Virginia, recently received training from multiple mass casualty incident exercises, according to the county.

As part of the scenario, emergency medical technicians and firefighters responded to a simulated shooting at a daycare center. Every firefighter and EMT in the department participated in the MCI exercises, as did role players with simulated injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to minor cuts and scrapes.

The exercises, which involved 40 to 45 fire and rescue personnel and approximately 25 role players in each of the one-day sessions, were meant to encourage cooperation and teamwork while taxing skills.

"We do have incidents where there are 10-15 patients involved in multiple vehicle crashes, and that's technically an MCI," Kim Pumphrey, the fire and rescue battalion chief for the county, said. "However, a lot of times those incidents don't overburden what units we have available. Typically, an MCI is going to expand that."

During an MCI exercise, fire and rescue personnel perform triage, administer treatment and transport patients as they would at any live scenario. Area hospitals designate personnel to play along in the exercise and take emergency calls from people on scene.

The MCI exercises followed the regional guidelines of the Northern Virginia operations manual, which sets procedures for dealing with scenarios ranging from home fires to more intensive MCIs.

"We're getting a lot of good information," Lt. Tom Arnoto, one of the participants in the MCI exercises, said. "It's a new procedure that's going into effect for Northern Virginia and this is getting us on board. It's going to give us a strong foundation on understanding new policies and procedures, and hopefully, provide better care for the citizens of Prince William County."

The training is meant to take first responders past what they might have learned from classroom instruction or reading.

"What this does is reinforce what they've already learned, and it gives them additional information they may not have had previously," Pumphrey said. "It's really hitting home the importance of different aspects of the MCI, the command and control structure of the MCI, so that everyone is accounted for and everyone is treated appropriately. This training helps our personnel to be all on the same page with each other."