Students Learn EMS Procedures in Mass Casualty Drill

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BRIDGEWATER, NJ - People were strewn out across the parking lot, some lying down and some sitting up, as emergency medical responders ran around to determine those with the most severe injuries.

Cries for help could be heard around the lot as the responders tried to get to each person in need quickly.

And although there were many people to attend to, the responders were fortunately only responding to a triage drill at the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School Aug. 9, and none of the injuries were real.

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A total of 29 students from across the county, most from Bridgewater-Raritan, were taking part in a two-month EMT program through Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, and sponsored by the county freeholders, Raritan Valley Community College and the Somerset County EMS Chief Officers’ Association.

The students, most in high school and a few in college, were part of a two-month program to get into the EMT program, and the Aug. 9 drill, a mass casualty incident where they had to triage a large number of patients to simulate a disaster, was the final step before their Aug. 14 graduation.

“This is their first exposure to live patients,” said training center coordinator Kevin Kurzweil. “It is the culmination of their training.”

Kurzweil said that in the drill, there was a 5K with a car bomb going off in the registration area. Family and friends of the students pretended to be victims, with varying degrees of injury.

Students evaluated all injuries and separated the victims into categories based on the degree of injury, before loading several into ambulances provided by local rescue squads.

Kurzweil said this EMT program has been held since at least 2009, and most of the students are 16 and 17 years old. They devoted 230 hours to training, he said, beginning June 14.

Many high school students can get early college credit for the program, Kurzweil said, and the costs are paid for by the Somerset County Freeholders.

“This is a huge commitment for the kids,” said Chris Ireland, an educator with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Somerset. “We run the course in hopes that we can inspire volunteerism within the county. As part of the course, participants must volunteer with a rescue squad.”

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