Operation LIFESAVER 2009

Published: May 2009

Over the course of May 5th thru May 8th FL3 DMAT participated in a large-scale exercise co-coordinated by the U.S. Air Force, 81st Medical Group, at Keesler Air Force Base.

The exercise involved DOD elements from Travis AFB in California, Scott AFB in Illinois, Andrews AFB outside DC, Keesler AFB in Mississippi and the respective Federal Coordinating Centers. In addition to FL3, there were 3 other DMAT units, 24 NDMS hospitals, the Alabama Medical Assistance Team, various County EOCs that involved Fire, HAZMAT, Medical, EPA, and County EMAs.

The scenario was a CBRNE terrorist attack with a train derailment and a resulting chemical spill of Anhydrous Ammonia. Four patient reception areas were established at DOD facilities in Biloxi/ Gulfport MS including Keesler AFB and the Combat Readiness Training Center, Mobile AL, and Pensacola FL.  FL3 was assigned to the Gulfport, MS location and set up a complete base of operations in a record 3 1/2 hours, just as the first group of patients started to arrive. In the first day of the exercise, FL3 triaged, treated, and discharged over 65 patients. Meticulous patient tracking records were maintained by both DMAT and Federal Coordinating Center personnel. Electronic Medical Record keeping was also successfully accomplished. It was a weary FL3 that crawled into bed that night.

The next day, FL3 handled a surge of almost 100 patients during the morning hours. Again, patients were triaged, treated, and transported as required. In one case our security people found a dog (stuffed animal) responsible for several biting incidents and turned it over to the National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) -2. A patient with a weapon was also identified by sharp-eyed FL3 security. He was treated in handcuffs in the medical unit and turned over to local police authorities.

In the afternoon, FL3 moved to Keesler AFB for hands-on training in the movement of patients in and out of military aircraft. After a thorough briefing session on the necessary lift techniques, hand signals, and safety precautions, all personnel participated in moving stretcher patients into the belly of a C130, securing them in place, and then off-loading them. When the training session was completed, the group returned to Gulfport to break down the BOO and load it into the trucks.

On the trip home the next day FL3 Training Officer John Crowley told the group that FL3 had met or surpassed all training objectives that had been established for the exercise. In the two days of the exercise a total of 800 patients were treated by all medical elements. The FL3 team arrived safely home from Operation Lifesaver in the early evening of May 8th with a set of new and sharpened skills.

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