Mass casualties drill

Staging and command area of the Park County Coroner’s Office mass casualties drill, June 15. The yurt-looking structure is a portable morgue. (Photo courtesy of the Park County Coroner’s Office)

If you were driving along U.S. Highway 285 near Como, Saturday morning, June 15, you may have come upon something that looked like a movie set, complete with a crushed bus, bodies strewn about and first responders scurrying around the field.

It wasn’t a movie set. The Park County Coroner’s Office was conducting a mass casualty training exercise, at about mile marker 190. First responders, law enforcement and other support agencies could be seen with “victims,” being carried or observed on the ground. The exercise started at 6 a.m. and concluded by mid afternoon.

Park County Coroner David Kintz Jr. said, “The exercise was very beneficial for all parties involved. Most every agency in Park County participated. Coroners were also present from Jefferson, Summit and El Paso counties. It was very educational and went a long way in preparing us if a mass casualty situation were to occur here in the future.”

The scenario consisted of a tourist bus rolling over in a ravine, resulting in casualties. The “victims” were mannequins. The purpose of the drill was to test the overall plan, preparedness for a portable morgue operation in a field situation, and to examine operability of different disciplines and agencies in a mass fatality incident.

There were a total of 17 agencies who participated in the exercise including: Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado State Patrol, El Paso County Coroner’s Office, Fairplay Police Department, Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, Hartsel Fire Protection District, Jefferson-Como Fire Protection District, North-West Fire Protection District, Park County Emergency Management and Operation Center, South Park Ambulance District, Southern Park County Fire and EMS Protection District, Teller County Office of Emergency Management, Platte Canyon Fire Protection District, Alma Police Department, Summit County Coroner’s Office and the Fairplay 911 Communication Center.

The drill enabled the agencies to follow a plan for a mass casualty incident, and see where the weak parts of the plan existed. This will give them guidance on perfecting the plan for the future.

The Coroner’s Office would like to thank the Armstrong Ranch for use of the property for the exercise and the Corner’s Office CARA team for its participation.

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