Last week, several coroners in training and a number of emergency responders descended on a mock mass casualty scene in Summit County.
Although the seven-car pile up was simulated and the five reported fatalities were simply dummies, the exercise provided a valuable learning experience for the 18 participants of the Summit County Coroner’s Office citizen’s academy, explained Summit County Coroner Dr. Tim Keeling.
“It was a fabulous drill and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the community’s interest in this new program,” he said. “There is a high caliber of participants and I was impressed that they expressed so much interest in being apart of this countywide safety exercise.”
The drill was organized by deputy coroner Regan Wood and held last week in conjunction with the countywide wildfire preparedness exercise.
Their portion of the drill began by deploying coroner academy participants to the High County Training Center, where they waited for a page from the Summit County Communications Center about the simulated crash, which was staged at Colorado Mountain College’s Breckenridge Campus. While waiting for that page, students learned how to set up a grid search for multiple victims and personal items, which were going to be strewn about at the scene.
When the first page came in at 12:35 p.m., the class and staff responded to the CMC campus and learned about on scene investigation and removal. The coroner’s office received a simultaneous page to respond to Summit Medical Center about the mock crash, where coroner academy students learned about how doctors and nurses prepare to treat multiple victims in a mass casualty scenario.
While at the hospital, students viewed the morgue before returning to the High County Training Center for a toxicology and fingerprinting lesson.
They then documented and photographed all items removed from the scene and took steps to positively identify the victims.
Wood said her students reported learning valuable skills during the exercise, but admitted it also was beneficial for the coroner’s office staff to go through the motions.
“Initially, it really was about expanding on the things the participants have already learned in the classroom and sharpening them in a real-world scenario,” Wood said. “Having gone through those steps with them, the office certainly feels better prepared to handle any mass casualty incidences that may occur.”
Wood’s boss echoed similar comments, but said his deputy coroner deserved all of the credit for taking the initiative to organize the drill.
“It really was Regan’s show,” Keeling said. “She not only was the driving force behind starting the academy, but also coordinating with the county to provide the participants with this real world experience.”
“It was a fabulous drill and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the community’s interest in this new program.”
Summit County coroner