Miami Valley public safety agencies are “as ready as they can be” to handle mass casualty emergencies such as the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon and a massive explosion in Texas, an emergency training leader said Thursday.
And Calamityville, a unique medical readiness training site in Fairborn, prepares first responders for that “worst day,” according to Jim Gruenberg, the center’s deputy director. Also known as the Wright State University National Center for Medical Readiness, the 52-acre site at a former cement plant in Fairborn is one of a handful of highly realistic emergency training centers in the nation.
Many area first responders have taken courses at Calamityville, which has trained more than 2,000 responders from Ohio to Utah since the center opened in May 2011.
“We’re trying to provide them that exposure to their worst day before it’s actually their worst day,” he said. The one-time New York City and former Kettering firefighter and paramedic has responded to the World Trade Center terrorist attack to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina and a dozen other major events or disasters through work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Locally, civilian and military public safety agencies have years of experience working in tandem to manage major outings at the Air Force Marathon, Vectren Dayton Air Show, golf tournaments, and other large venues, he said.
“I would say they are as ready as they can be,” he said. “No one is absolutely ready. Those things happen. No matter how you plan, it’s always a surprise.”
He said responders must expect the unexpected.
At Calamityville, they may see that premise in action. Overturned vehicles, underground tunnels, splintered and ravaged buildings and a small private plane stuck between silos litter the site. Classrooms have life-like medical dummies that mimic breathing and bleeding. “Typical training does not involve that level of realism,” he said.
The center, with a $2.5 million annual budget and 10 staffers, has trained everyone from Ohio Highway Patrol troopers to Air Force pararescue jumpers.
All 51 firefighters at the Fairborn Fire Department have taken courses at Calamityville, said city Fire Chief Mike Riley. “When you make training like it’s a real situation you learn better from that,” he said.
Calamityville may expand that training to American Red Cross relief workers and farmers, who often are far away from medical help. More “tactical training zones” will recreate everything from the carnage of a tornado to the aftermath of an aircraft crash on the ground.
This week’s mass casualty incidents show the need for both public and non-public community responders to plan and train together, Gruenberg said.
‘There’s no simplicity to those kinds of incidents,” he said. However, planning “offers the opportunity for community leaders from both the public safety side, police and fire, and the non-public safety side, to learn from each other, to understand each other, to know each other’s names,” he added.
“It builds trust in the community so that if in fact something does occur, those people are already pre-scripted to know how to work together. Because there’s no script that’s going to address everything that happened there. The magic is how well people know how to work together and then you can work through anything. You don’t have to have a script for that.”