• 68°

Shavonne Potts column: Next time, I want to be a victim

Last week, first responders participated in a multi-agency mock haz-mat drill that crossed municipalities and included several dozen volunteers. The drill was designed to test skills and see if improvements could be made on how people respond to such incidents.
The crews were observed by an independent company and me. Now I wasn’t actually part of the drill, but I was assigned to write a story based on what I saw and heard.
To say the exercise was very realistic is an understatement. After a 911 call was made, dozens of firetrucks and even more firefighters arrived, and did I mention all the fake blood?
There were plenty of confused looks on the faces of those arriving into Pinnacle Corrugated where the bulk of the simulation was held. The company, located in Landis, was still open for business while the emergency workers hauled “victims” onto stretchers and firefighters hosed down a derailed train car.
I’ve written stories about mock drills and was once the victim in a Salisbury Police Department SWAT training years ago, but as far as reality this makes the top of my list. Many of the victims in the crash are students at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Some are training to be nurse aides and EMTs.
Some of the instructors made very believable burns, cuts and other wounds appear. One victim in the drill was impaled, while another received burns.
I was strangely fascinated by one in particular. It was a deep cut to a volunteer firefighter who was covered in fake blood from his head, ears and fingertips. I hesitated posting a picture to Twitter and Facebook for fear someone would think it was real. I wished at that moment I could trade places with him. As gory as it may sound. I would’ve jumped right in.
Sometimes immersing yourself into a story gives you a unique perspective. If I’m writing a story on a fire cadet who goes up 50 feet in the air on a ladder truck, then why not go up too (with a safety harness, of course). I actually did just that. I even asked County Emergency Management Director Frank Thomason if I could be a victim during the next drill. I really do mean it. I vowed they could impale me, cover me in fake blood, I didn’t care.
The responders basically knew the general idea of what they’d encounter, but the idea was to make it as real as possible. This accident was as real as it gets.
There were panicked victims in the scenario crying and wailing in pain. One woman was very entertaining. She boo-hooed about just wanting to go to church and ending up in an accident instead. The back story on the drill was that a church bus collided with a train. She was both funny and credible. I heard one of the volunteers say “that’s how people really respond during a wreck. They are crying, in pain, delirious.”
It’s crucial that these types of training exercises take place. These men and women, many of whom are volunteers, place themselves in harm’s way everyday. Many more of them receive hours of training that enable them to free someone from a car, burning building or resuscitate the unconscious.
Landis Fire Chief Reed Linn called the exercise one of the largest scale training drills in the southern part of the county. As different kinds of disasters emerge, so will the need for similar large-scale training exercises. During a real disaster, it would take many agencies working together to save lives. I think if such a disaster were to occur, I’d want area emergency crews as prepared as possible. However, next time, I want to be a victim.
Shavonne Potts covers crime and breaking news in Rowan County.
Contact her at 704-797-4253.

Comments

Comments closed.

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department clarifies county’s COVID-19 death total is 301

Landis

Landis approves new land development ordinance, zoning map

Landis

Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

Crime

One charged, another dead on sheriff’s most wanted list

Crime

No injuries after car shot eight times on Old Concord Road

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot

Coronavirus

Rowan County sees death 302 from COVID-19; Health Department to host final mass vaccine clinic

Ask Us

Ask Us: What happened to work on South Fulton Street home?

Crime

Blotter: Woman says she was shot in hand on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Rowan Sheriff’s Office charges Salisbury man with operating illegal gambling business

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on felony drug, breaking and entering charges

Local

Rep. Amber Baker discusses legislative session during Rowan Democrats breakfast meeting

Local

Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

News

N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured