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Testing EMS response: staying sharp for the unknown

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FARGO N.D.—Fire trucks, ambulances, and people scattered across an airport tarmac greeted those flying into Hector International Airport Tuesday.

After 6-months of planning, an in-depth disaster drill involving nearly 200 EMS responders went into action.

While most of us were still asleep, volunteer students prepared to be injured victims from a staged plane crash at Hector.

Makeup and fake wounds would help make the disaster more realistic for paramedics and firefighters.

Firefighters who are part of Hector Airport's own fire department helped organize a massive response to the fake crash.

And while tending to the injured is top priority, it is the process of 200 EMS coming on scene that is getting evaluated today.

First responders, fire and police here in Fargo Moorhead have long wrestled with tweaking radio communication with each other at crisis events.

"Exercises like this pull the resources together, and help us get on the same page, and through this process we work out a strong way of responding to an event," said Dave Bush, Hector Airport Fire Chief.

And it is not just how EMS responds to the crash, but how hospitals here in town handle the surge of patients.

"They have their day to day operations going and now all of a sudden we are going to surge them with 20-50 patients into their ER's, its going to test their abilities, and so it is a great exercise," said Leon SChlafmann, Emergency manager, Fargo.

At Sanford, an incident command center, fully staffed, practicing for the "what if."

"I think we have gotten structured on how we run incident commands, we have designated roles and we have technology that in history we did not have," said Sanford VP of nursing, Brittany Montecuollo.

With so many involved, the debrief allows all EMS to break down what worked best and what didn't, trying to perfect a response to the unknown.

Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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