First responders put skills to the test during emergency response drill
Imagine an aircraft explosion on landing and the immediate aftermath. The moments after an airplane crash are undoubtedly critical, as nursing student Sigfried Halili ’23 learned firsthand during the Triennial Aircraft Disaster Exercise. This every-three-year, mandatory certification requirement by the Federal Aviation Administration tests airfield disaster preparedness and response by simulating a full-scale aircraft emergency disaster. The drill tests and evaluates the operational capacity of emergency response in a stress environment.
Divided among four groups colored Red, Green, Yellow and Black, Chaminade nursing students treated patients with varying injuries, with the Red group receiving the most seriously injured, the Green team tending to those with superficial abrasions and contusions, the Yellow team looking after patients in between Red and Green, and Black team announcing mortality.
“The firefighters and EMS would perform triage and assess where the injured passengers would be taken,” explained Halili, the senior representative of the Student Nursing Association. “Of the five patients I treated, one was mortally injured, another belonged to the Green category and the three others were in critical condition.”
This triennial, multi-agency exercise involved hundreds of volunteers—including 175 nursing students from Chaminade University—and airport personnel who acted as injured passengers. Participating agencies included Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) Airports Division staff, HDOT Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) units, Securitas, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, City & County of Honolulu Fire and Police Departments, Emergency Medical Services, American Medical Response, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam Federal Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Hawaii Department of Public Safety and airline personnel.
Volunteers portrayed passengers who were injured, uninjured, unresponsive, fainting, deceased, family, friends, responders, medical personnel and other miscellaneous roles. Make-up (moulage) was applied to simulate varying injuries, from deep lacerations to serious tissue wounds. Participants were also asked to “role play,” pretending to cry, scream with injuries and yell confusedly. Others acted grief stricken, angry and demanding information. All these roles were to simulate a real-life event to help responders to be better prepared. This exercise is an opportunity to get an on-scene and behind-scene view of a real-life emergency simulation.
The main focus for the nursing students during the exercise was to practice use of the Incident Command System— a systemic tool used for the command control and coordination of emergency response—and perform disaster triage and treatment skills. The event was a great opportunity for nursing students from three local nursing schools—including Chaminade—to work cohesively in an intense and stressful environment, an experience most of them had never encountered.
“This was the first triennial exercise that I participated in,” said Halili, who will graduate in December and take the National Council Licensure Examination to become a fully licensed Certified Nurse. “It was amazing to see how many people get involved when an emergency happens on an airport tarmac.”