‘Explosive’ practice run at Union School Park tests area medics

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Jason Hawk | Wellington Enterprise
Firefighters take actors playing casualties to triage areas during a mass casualty drill on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Union School Park in Wellington.

JASON HAWK
EDITOR

Maggie Bogner was minding her own business Saturday when a food truck exploded at Union School Park.

“I was standing in line. There was a bright light and I hit my head on the ground,” the 11-year-old Mapleton student said.

It didn’t really happen, though. There was no boom, no fire and no real blood.

There was only a drill designed to help safety forces from all over the area practice their response to a mass casualty situation.

It was still a scary sight. Screws and scrap metal were attached to Bogner’s arms, and she was slathered in red, sticky goo.

She was one of the least “injured” explosion victims.

Wellington High School senior Grace Dudziak was carried on a stretcher to wait for a Metro LifeFlight helicopter. She was supposed to be critically wounded and said she pretended to have trouble breathing.

Dudziak, who was just recently accepted to the University of Toledo, said she responded to a call for volunteers by Principal Tina Drake.

“This was perfect because it’s community service but it’s also medical, which is great because I’m going into nursing,” she said.

Jennifer Lamb was another volunteer victim whose life appeared to be on the line. A splintered fork stuck out of her midsection, and other jagged metal pieces were adhered to her body as though stuck there by the force of the explosion.

She described what is was like to lie on the ground while medics hovered over her asking questions: “I figured at some point I’d probably bled enough that I wouldn’t be able to talk anymore, so I just laid there quiet,” she said.

Paramedics were not told in advance what the scenario would be — only that they’d have to use their skills to quickly assess who was dead, whose wounds were superficial, and who needed treatment the most.

While other safety agencies have staged active shooter drills, Skip Gentry, director of the South Lorain County Ambulance District, said an exploding food truck was the perfect set-up for Wellington. “It makes the most sense for us if you think about our needs here,” he said.

Gentry said he fully expected his medics to make mistakes. He aimed to catch and correct errors in a safe setting rather than when real lives were on the line.

SLCAD paramedics approached the area wearing bulletproof vests — they’ll wear them on every call no later than Jan. 1 — and moved from body to body. Some actors waiting for help had simulated missing limbs, blood, concussions, burns and hearing damage.

They were told to ask questions, to howl in pain, to moan, and sometimes even cause problems for first responders.

Wellington firefighters rolled up and charged their lines as they would if they had to douse a real food truck fire. Then they turned their attention to the wounded, hefting victims onto stretchers.

Capping off the exercise, a LifeFlight helicopter wheeled over the park, then zipped in from the east for a gentle landing. None of the “wounded” got real rides, but crews did practice loading patients on the chopper.