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Sunapee Hosts Mass Casualty Training

posted Sep 29, 2017, 5:42 AM by Web Master   [ updated Sep 29, 2017, 5:49 AM ]

The Making of a Mass-Casualty Training Exercise in New Hampshire

Sunapee, NH - On Saturday, September 9th, I scheduled a training scenario. As I started looking into doing the training, I contacted 'Reeds Towing and Recovery' out of Claremont, NH. They were excited and eager to assist us. As I was talking with the owner, Scott Reed, everything started to take shape, especially after realizing that Reeds Towing had participated in this kind of training before with many other towns throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. My next step was to get my department on board.

The guys from Sunapee Fire and EMS all thought it was a great idea. At one point during the planning, I thought to myself, why not invite the neighboring towns? Reality is that if there was ever a bus rollover, it would take multiple resources from neighboring towns to cover the scene. The towns that answered the call/invite were New London Fire, Newbury Fire, Washington EMS, New London Ambulance Service and the Sunapee Police.

The next step I needed to work out were the logistics; where could I do a bus rollover that could handle the scene's safety, traffic, accessibility and apparatus, while also making sure that our kids (mock victims) would remain safe? After much thought, I contacted Mount Sunapee Ski Resort in Newbury, NH and asked to use their large dirt parking lot, known as Lot #3. My request was granted by Mt. Sunapee’s General Manager, Jay Gamble.

Now that the wheels were spinning, I was getting both excited and overwhelmed, as I had never done anything like this before. As I was trying to coordinate the event, I realized I was going to need some help. Luckily for me, both my brother and father have been in the fire service for 20+ years. As I was talking to my father Capt William Sencabaugh Littleton fire. Littleton,  NH About photographing this event and my brother, Derek Sencabaugh, who is the Asst. Chief of Lexington FD in Lexington, MA, he informed me that they (LFD) had just finished a similar training exercise earlier last year. He sent me video they had of the training, and what an inspiration it was! As you might have guessed, I volunteered him to come help me make my own vision come to life. He graciously agreed, I might add.

 What came next were the details:

-Date: We had to coordinate with all the above parties and finally agreed on 9-9-17.

-Time: 8 AM, meet at the firehouse.

-Mock Victims: 14 Middle School/High School students were excited to come play.

-Driver: I am also a Sunapee School District bus driver, so it was easy to recruit two of my coworkers!

-And last but not least, we of course had coffee and snacks.


As everything was being put together, I figured why not include all the bus drivers in the actual training? We as school bus drivers go through the motions of showing kids where all the emergency exits are (two times a year, per state protocol), but why not give the bus drivers a reality of what an actual bus rollover would be like? I reached out to Sunapee and Newport drivers to come and partake; both departments accepted and were appreciative.

On 9-9-17 all my victims and bus drivers were instructed to come to Mt. Sunapee. The bus drivers came and got to view a bus on its side, walk through it and around it. Each of the towns transportation supervisors gave some training and words during this time.

I then needed to dress the kids for their part in the drill. What I neglected to tell the Fire and EMS guys and gals was that we had a tackle box (that my brother brought), full of life-like wounds and blood bags to be activated by the kids. So while the bus drivers were doing their thing, we were getting the kids all bloodied up!

I might have also forgotten to tell the responding departments that I actually had TWO buses and a car for the drill. On one side of Lot #3, we had one bus rolled over with the kids inside, while on the other side of Lot #3, we had a second bus rolled over onto a car that had four victims trapped inside. For safety reasons, we used crash dummies inside the car and I made my senior Sunapee bus driver climb into the bus. The good news is that no crash dummies were injured during this exercise...

Now that everything was in place, we could begin the exercise! It started with New London Dispatch putting out a tone for the following: In the 500 block of Route 103B, there was a report of a bus accident with no other information available. (All departments were instructed to actually go to Lot #3.)

The first department to arrive would be instructed to go into bus #1 and triage and tag patients (Red, Yellow, Green or Black), based on injuries. After this was done, we stopped, reset and removed the tags so that the next department could go through the same scenario. After this was completed, we reset and went live, again having the tones sent out. Sunapee police arrived first on scene, reporting a bus on its side with multiple children inside. All deportments arriving worked together in a mutual aid drill. EMS went into the bus, tagged the kids and then we extricated them, cared for their injuries and prioritized which students would be first priority for transport, all the way down to the walking wounded.

Oh yeah, and we of course needed the twists in place to work! Remember I mentioned that the kids had blood bags and life-like wounds? Well looking at my pictures, you can clearly see the wounds and blood, which I can say definitely took some of the firefighters by surprise. I mean squirting blood, cyanosis, broken bones, gaping wounds...all very life-like! P.S., the bus driver did not survive...too much brain matter lost!

We also had two “moms” in the crowd that rushed the scene, screaming that their kids were in the bus. This took the police officer by surprise, but he immediately jumped into action and stopped the moms from reaching the bus! (JOB WELL DONE.)

The second scenario involved an empty bus taking a right hand turn at an intersection when the driver has a cardiac event and loses control, rolling his bus onto the car sitting at a red light. After putting our crash dummies in the car, Reeds Towing crushed the car, entrapping them in it. Firefighters and EMS had to extricate the driver of the bus after stabilizing it. They then had to get the bus off the car and extricate the four victims inside. They used Reeds to secure the bus and lift it enough to cut the victims out of the car. Although there was no blood and guts in this exercise, it was really taxing on the departments as it took quite some time to complete.

Summary: The departments got to learn first-hand what it would be like to handle a bus rollover with kids inside. The drill reminded them how to work as a team while also refreshing other skills, such as working under different levels of command, prioritizing patient injuries, conducting extrication, treating patients, handling crowd control and resource allocation. Even though it was only a training, everyone treated the drill as if it was a real-life event.

I would like to give a HUGE thanks to everyone that came out and helped make this drill happen: Reeds Towing and Recovery, all my victims and bus drivers, the Mt. Sunapee staff, and of course all my Brothers and Sisters on the job. All of you guys made this a successful day! Last but not least, I want to give a very special thanks to my brother, Assistant Chief Derek Sencabaugh of Lexington FD. Without his help, this would not have been as successful as it was.

~Darryl Sencabaugh,
Sunapee Bus Driver
Sunapee Fire/EMS