SMYRNA, Tenn. (June 13, 2022) — Personnel from Ascension Medical Group Saint Thomas conducted multiple mass casualty triage and evacuation incidents at Fate Sanders Marina on J. Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, Tennessee. The purpose of the exercise was to educate and field test interns in a waterborne reenactment exercise which simulated what a catastrophic boating accident with several victims would entail.
The Corps of Engineers Nashville District and Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency secured a small portion of the lake, limiting outside access to the area to ensure there was no external interference during the June 9, training event.
Cole Johnson, J. Percy Priest Lake park ranger, said he’s always happy to help with training exercises that promote proper water safety at Nashville District lakes.
“We’re here to provide support and encourage those recreating on the lake to wear their life jackets and practice proper water safety. Everyone involved today is wearing a life vest while participating in the training exercise, which ensures everyone is safe and accounted for,” said Johnson.
Rutherford County Fire Department, Lascassas Fire Department, Sumner County Emergency Management, and Lavergne Fire Department helped conduct the training exercise and had emergency vehicles on standby.
Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Captain Adam Rose said in a real-world scenario, his department would respond to any massive casualty events that could take place on the lake in their area.
“We would be part of the emergency response. We’d use boats to get the patients out of the water, to a designated location for medical evacuation by land or air, so our involvement today is very pragmatic to a real-world scenario,” said Rose.
The three-hour training exercise was originally set to take place with volunteers acting as boat casualties pulled from the water, triaged, and boated to emergency vehicles on shore. But due to high bacterial concerns in the water caused by an industrial incident in Smyrna, the training exercise did not include water submersion rescue.
Approximately twenty volunteers were rotated in and out of the casualty collection point and triage. This gave doctors a realistic idea of what they could encounter if a real-world massive causality waterborne event were to occur.
Volunteers received symptom cards which included several different injuries, including victims with head trauma, missing limbs, and unresponsiveness.
Ethan Bruce, account manager for CME Corporation out of Warwick, Rhode Island, portrayed a casualty with an aluminum rod in his leg needing triage and medical evacuation by air.
“The interns and doctors from Ascension Medical Group did a great job of getting us triage. On one occasion, I was purposely triaged incorrectly and listed as ‘dead on arrival’ so when I reached triage, the doctors had to figure out that I was not dead and gave me the proper care I needed. They did their jobs quickly and efficiently,” said Bruce.
Assistant Director of Emergency Management for Rutherford County Tim Hooker said training exercises like this help to increase emergency response preparedness levels and local medical personnel’s ability to respond more appropriately to unique types of events.
“We gather information from training exercises like this so we can analyze any gaps or shortfalls in our response parameters that need improvement. Once identified, we create a corrective action plan and implement what we’ve learned into our procedure and protocol planning to improve on more in the future,” said Hooker.
In May 2021, seven passengers were killed when their plane malfunctioned and crashed into J. Percy Priest Lake, killing all seven passengers. Those attending the massive casualty evacuation training exercise want to be prepared for unexpected accidents on Tennessee waterways, so they can respond quickly and confidently in critical situations.
Rose says boating accidents can happen quickly and without warning, so the best way to be safe on any lake is to follow all boating laws and regulations. Also, be sure to wear your protective gear and life vest when on the water.
“Wear your life jacket, every time. I also encourage people to go online and visit TWRA’s website so they can learn about boating safety and how to safely recreate on Tennessee lakes,” said Rose.
Boating education for the state of Tennessee and TWRA Boating Safety Course information and locations can be viewed at https://www.tn.gov/twra/boating/boating-education.html.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)