ST. ANSGAR, Iowa – It’s training they hope they never have to use. Emergency responders are gathered in St. Ansgar to learn what to do in an emergency that causes a large number of deaths, called a “mass casualty” situation.
It’s a scene that many never want to imagine coming upon, a bus tipped on its side with kids stuck within.
“If it’s a bus, and if it’s our people from our community, it’s going to be chaos. It would be a horrible situation, but you have to think coolly, and put your emotions on hold in order to do the job,” said Lance Kittleson, President of St. Ansgar Rescue.
That’s why they’re training for it. Kittleson and his EMS crew, along with fire departments from Mitchell County, law enforcement, and even those from the school are putting their knowledge of their jobs to the test by going over what to do if this happens for real.
“Rescue, emergency medical people, and fire don’t necessarily train together in small towns, so this is a good opportunity for us to both work on this,” said Kittleson.
They’re learning a step-by-step process. It starts with assessing the situation, cutting holes in the bus, and finally, bringing everybody out. For Alex Rowan, a rookie firefighter with the Osage Fire Department, this is an eye opening experience.
“To be able to come to training where there is a school bus on its side, it gives you a totally different look. We’re all used to being on a bus while it’s on its wheels, but when it’s on its side, it’s totally different,” said Rowan.
Rowan says one of the biggest things he’s learning is the art of communication.
“It’s interesting to see how many people and how much communication it takes,” said Rowan.
For Kittleson, that’s exactly what he’s going for.
“They’ll have a little bit better idea on how to approach a mass casualty situation, what everyone should do. I mean everything is different, there’s no such plan that ever goes perfectly, but if you have a plan, you can work with that.”
Kittleson says the reason they chose the school bus incident for this training is because it’s the most likely mass casualty situation to happen in the area.
That’s defined as anything that would result in four or more deaths.