Saturday, March 13, 2010

Emergency at South Pole

Oh alright - simulated emergency at South Pole.  Last weekend we had our first winter emergency drill, a simulated snowmobile accident about 200 yards away from the station.  Saturday morning all of our Emergency Response Teams responded to a general station alarm announcing there was an unknown injury at the big fish behind the station (the big fish is an ice sculpture left over from a summer ice sculpting contest).  The first responders arrived on scene in about 7 minutes to find one female victim with an arm trapped under the snowmobile and the other rider trying to dig her out.  Seven minutes was a very good response time considering everyone has to don serious ECW gear to go outside.  Did I forget to mention that it was -71F with a -94F wind chill?

Although everything did not go perfectly it was a very good response considering it was our first unannounced drill of the season and everyone was caught by surprise.  The victim was found, assessed, immobilized on a backboard, transported, and in Medical 18 minutes after the first ERT team member arrived.

I have to compliment our primary victim, Shelby, who produced some very realistic screaming whenever she was moved.  As an added surprise the second snowmobile rider, Derek, appeared perfectly normal at first but collapsed on cue in the middle of the drill to add an unexpected second victim to the teams' duties.

As Safety Engineer it is my responsibility to plan these drills and set up emergency drill scenarios.  We are required to run at least one drill a month and as the season goes on they will get more difficult.  I try to keep them realistic, so there won't be any meteor strikes on the main station, but I'm sure there will be some victims who will be difficult to get to, some mass-casualty drills, some fires, and some drills where the victim can't be easily found.


Fern Emma said...

Are you going to have your companions drag baby dolls out a burning buildings by one arm?
And how about freezing to death while one's arm is caught under a snow-mobile. What brave soul risked that role?

C. Reaves said...

Fern Emma, the baby doll safety plan at Pole is for me to not go into any smokey buildings to save them. We do have a more comprehensive drill safety plan however. There are observer/controllers at every drill who's primary responsibility is the safety of all participants, vicitms and rescuers alike. They will pause or stop the drill if they see any dangerous situations developing. We were very aware of the cold in this drill since -71 is pretty cold even for Pole. I was the observer and stepped into the drill several times to see if Shelby was OK and warm.

Before every drill we do a hazard assessment to insure that observers are aware of all the hazards of the drill and what to look out for. And of course Shelby's arm wasn't really trapped - we dug a trench in the ice and had her lay her arm in it and then pushed the snowmobile over the top of it. She could have gotten up at any time. We would never actually trap a person in a drill.

Where do we get our victims? All our victims are volunteers from the crew and being hams at heart they usually enjoy themselves. Shelby's cries of pain were particularly artful.

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