HOUGHTON, Mich. – On Sunday, Sept. 9, a school bus will crash in the western Upper Peninsula, seriously injuring many children and requiring first responders to use the Jaws of Life to cut it open.
Fortunately, this will just be a practice run – a chance for police, fire, emergency medical staff and hospital staff to test their skills and learn from others who have experience in treating injured kids.
Members of the University of Michigan Health System's Survival Flight medical transport team will be part of the Keweenaw Peninsula event, the fifth annual Western Upper Peninsula Trauma and Critical Care Conference. It will also include a day of classroom instruction on Monday, Sept. 10.
This is the fifth year that Survival Flight has worked with local agencies from Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga Counties to participate in a full-scale mass casualty training exercise. The events are partly state-supported, including funding from the Region 8 Hospital Preparedness Program.
"In emergency medicine, the saying goes, children are not just small adults,” says Brad J. Uren, M.D., associate medical director of Survival Flight and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the U-M Medical School. “The exercise will test local emergency medical services and medical first responders' ability to triage and otherwise manage the care of children injured in such an incident."
Uren notes that U-M has had a dedicated pediatric emergency department for years, but that this care has expanded in the last year with the opening of the new home for the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The new hospital, which has a Survival Flight helistop on its roof, includes a much larger area for injured children from around the state and region to be treated.
Survival Flight has long been involved in patient transports from the Upper Peninsula, using its specially equipped Cessna jet. Last month, U-M put into service three new Eurocopter EC155 helicopters that are capable of reaching the UP without refueling – expanding the options for rapid transport of severely injured or ill patients from the U.P. to U-M.
The drill will also test area hospitals' ability to absorb mass casualties from a diverse patient population, the ability of EMS to transport large numbers of casualties, and the interagency communication of all parties involved.
Survival Flight staff – including flight nurses who are trained both as emergency medicine nurses and as paramedics -- will be on hand to provide direction and support for the drill. Local children and teens will act the parts of injured school bus riders.
The drill is a cooperative one, involving personnel from Mercy EMS, Bay Ambulance, Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital and Portage Health System, with assistance from Michigan Technological University and the Houghton and Keweenaw County Office of Emergency Management. Other providers from agencies across the Upper Peninsula are slated to attend.
Triage training will be provided by Survival Flight staff who will provide the patient scenarios that the participants will be working with.
"Survival Flight has a core mission to ensure the safety of our community," Uren says. "The Upper Peninsula is an important part of the Michigan community and the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues there make these training sessions both thoroughly enjoyable and a valuable experience for UP residents and their community emergency responders."
Survival Flight transports critically ill or injured patients within the 48 contiguous states, Canada and Mexico. Survival Flight supports the U-M Transplant Center's organ procurement team to provide more than 400 lifesaving transplants each year; flies more than 160,000 miles each year, and has flown millions of miles in the past 29 years. For more information on Survival Flight and the new helicopters, visit www.survivalflight.com .