Thursday, November 15, 2007

Are you ready for a MCI?

On our first evening in McMurdo, fresh off the C-17, one of the papers handed to us was a form to volunteer to be a part of the MCI Auxillary team and places to list prior medical training. MCI stands for mass casualty incident - any accident creating more casualties than our local McMurdo hospital can handle, overwhelming the standard local resources. Here, three people with major injuries would actually qualify as an MCI as our hospital only has the full facilities to treat two people with serious injuries.

Last week some of the hospital staff held a series of trainings for those who had volunteered to be a part of the MCI auxilliary teams. One day was an orientation to the teams, firehouse location, and gear. In MCI situations, we would be using the firehouse as a staging area to have adequate indoor space. There are trunks of emergency medical and first aid gear stored there as well as stashes of blankets and other useful items. On two other days we met at the hospital to review emergency treatments, Antarctica-specific issues, and try practice scenarios. Besides the talented staff of doctors and nurses, and the emergency skills of the fire department folks, there are lots of people with helpful emergency medical backgrounds in the general community. The volunteers have everything from EMT certifications, to nursing degrees, to Wilderness First Responder certifications and Search and Rescue or Ski Patrol experience. There are also a group of people who have volunteered to be recorders, one for each patient, keeping track of their vital statistics, medications given, evaluations made, actions taken, treatment given, etc.

We are divided into Red, Yellow, and Green teams according to which group of injured people we would be helping. The same color system is used to give a rating of how seriously each person is injured. Someone who can move themselves around, only needs basic first aid and is stable would be in green. A person with more serious or multiple injuries but whose condition isn't currently life-threatening, who can respond to caregivers, and who can wait awhile for successful treatment would be in yellow. Someone in red is unlikely to be coherent and needs major medical assistance immediately. These colors indicate the patient's priority for medical care. Depending on evaluation and what happens to a patient over time, a patient might move between these categories.

Aircraft represent one of the likliest sources of large numbers of injured people here. This is one of the reasons that such careful weather observations and conservative safety decisions are made. A complicating factor in any MCI will of course be the cold weather and exposure any injured people would be subjected to.

Many large organizations like the Anchorage School District or the Municipality of Anchorage have plans in place of how they might deal with various emergency scenarios that might occur in their area. What types of large scale emergencies could reasonably happen in the area where you live? What might you and your class (or family) be able to do now to be better prepared for these?

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