Disaster hits Burlingame, but everyone OK

Osage County Fire District No. 6 Chief Jim Strohm and Lt. Jim Welch consult on a search and rescue plan during Saturday’s emergency exercise in Burlingame.

Four dead, 12 critically injured and 30 walking wounded. But all in all, it wasn’t a bad day in Burlingame last Saturday, considering the town was hit with a wind-driven storm, a rollover vehicle accident, anhydrous ammonia leak, and search and rescue effort. Fortunately, it was all imaginary, as part of an exercise involving numerous local emergency responders and law enforcement personnel.

“We’re extremely happy with the number of agencies that showed up and responders who showed up,” said Bryce Romine, Osage County emergency management director.

Romine, who headed up the Oct. 11 emergency exercise that had been in the planning stages for almost a year, said he was pleased with the results of the exercise. While he was encouraged by the way local responders handled the mock scenarios, Romine said the exercise achieved its goal of providing a learning experience.

“We learned that some of our standard operating procedures will need to be changed,” Romine said this week.

He said a final report is to be developed from the daylong exercise, and he hadn’t yet reviewed reports from the exercise’s evaluators. The evaluators included two personnel from the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, and one each from the Coffey County Health Department and Wabaunsee County Emergency Management.

For people in Burlingame who might not have known the exercise was occurring, it could have been a bit of a shock to see fire trucks, ambulances and law enforcement vehicles lined up in front of the town’s former nursing home on the west side of town. The building, which has been vacant for years, served as the site of the search and rescue scenario that followed a mock straight line wind event with winds over 70 mph.

Upon entering the debris-strewn building, responders immediately encountered a mock fatality victim, and then searched the entire building looking for more victims. Some of the victims were portrayed by local high school students, others were mannequins and some were represented by plastic cards hidden in various locations throughout the building’s hallways, rooms and closets.

While responders were searching the building and removing victims, other personnel had set up a mass incident triage center in the building’s front yard. By the time the exercise ended, large red, yellow and green tarps covered part of the old nursing home’s front yard. Color coded injured, critical or dead mannequins and victims were provided care according to their mock injuries.

Romine said the search and rescue exercise went as planned, except that one injured victim, a plastic card, was not found in the first sweep of the building. The injured victim was rescued during a follow-up search.

Behind the building, responders successfully rescued a mannequin farmer overcome by an anhydrous ammonia leak from an overturned tank. Rescue of a live victim trapped in a rolled over van in front of the building didn’t go as quickly as it could have, Romine said, but because it was a mock incident, responders took time to evaluate the best way to extricate the victim inside.

“Unlike an actual auto accident, the responders were learning during this exercise, and they took extra time because they wanted to be real careful the person in the van wasn’t hurt while getting her out,” Romine said. “This was the first time they had dealt with rolled-over van on its side, and they struggled a little bit on how to get it done.”

Romine said the exercise’s goal was to help teach responders how to properly respond to the unexpected. A group of 17 emergency medical services students was also at the scene to observe and learn.

Romine said all situations that occurred during the exercise will be evaluated and part of the after-action review.

“We will make an improvement plan and then put it all into one document,” Romine said.

He said a final report would be completed in 30 to 60 days.

“This evaluation gives us an idea of what training needs to be done in the next two or three years,” he said. “We’ll take this information and put together a calendar of training exercises and workshops.”

He said it was believed the full-scale emergency exercise was the first held in the county in about 20 years. He said the last one was so long ago that records could not be located. Although the full-scale exercise was “a tremendous amount of work,” Romine said such an exercise should be conducted every few years.

Osage County Emergency Management was in charge of the exercise, but “I had some good help from Osage County EMS and Burlingame Fire Department, and good input from several other agencies,”  Romine said.

Participants in the exercise included personnel from the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, Osage County EMS, Osage County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center, Osage County Road and Bridge Department, Osage County Health Department, Osage County fire districts 2,3,5, and 6, Scranton Fire Department, Lyndon Police Department, Overbrook Police Department, Carbondale Police Department, Burlingame public works department, Franklin County Emergency Management, and Wabaunsee County Emergency Management.

For more information, contact Romine at 785-828-3323.

More photos of the exercise are available here.

NIK_0323

Osage County firefighters rescue an injured mannequin victim from inside Burlingame’s former nursing home, using an old door as a makeshift stretcher.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas