Pueblo County emergency managers held their annual drill Wednesday to test their response to a potential accident at the Pueblo Chemical Depot.
Officials were challenged this year with two simultaneous, unrelated emergencies. Crews dealt with a chemical incident at the Pueblo Chemical Depot which led to a fire and decontamination response.
At the same time, a school roof collapsed onto students at Pueblo West Elementary School.
11 News found out what it takes to make the drill more realistic. We went behind the scenes to find out what it takes for fake victims to generate a real response.
The saying, “The devil is in the details,” could not be more true then when it comes to moulage, the art of applying mock injuries. Whether it’s tossing dirt onto scratches or using wax to create deep cuts.
“Once you get that (wax) blended in then you just take and cut into it and make your lacerations,” Scott Westbroek showed 11 News.
Scott Westbroek knows what it takes to create life-like injuries. Westbroek was a U.S. Air Force medic that learned that both emergency and medical responders are more engaged in drills that have more realistic injuries.
“It gave a sense of urgency, we got better play, we actually got people to become more involved and they become better skilled at what they are trying to do,” said Westbroek.
Westbroek said before they would give fake victims cards that described their injuries, but you didn’t visibly see anything. He learned that had to change in order to initiate a proper response. Now he is a disaster and drill consultant, creating mock injuries for drills just like this one.
“The more real you can make it the more you are gonna get play, and the get the people to take it serious and play urgently. The more fake it looks the less engaged they are,” said Westbroek.
He offered this analogy, “It’s like a movie. If you got to a movie and you see a movie that’s very realistic, it catches you, your emotions go with it. Where if its very fake, low budget, doesn’t do much, the movie will lose you, especially if there are cheap special effects.”
Westbroek spent over an hour and a half putting mock injuries on students. Around 21 Pueblo County students were made up with trauma injuries, everything from scraps to broken bones.
Westbroek took time to blend in wax created wounds and would add a stage blood mixture to the injuries to make it not only appear more realistic, but when you touched it, blood would react similar to the real thing.
Officials spend time deciding how many injuries there should be and how serious they should be in regards to the roof collapse scenario.
The drill also served as a learning tool for about 80 health students. They are part of the Pueblo City Schools Health Academy, all with goals to serve in the health field. The seniors received the mock injuries, while the other students took part in the drill and evacuation. Those with serious injuries were transported to the hospital for triage treatment.
While the injuries are visible, other internal injuries were listed on a card around their neck.
“The extent of their injuries is listed on a card and that’s kind of a reference for them to look at so they will know how they need to act when they get to the hospitals,” said Loraine Greenwood, CSEPP Administrative Support and Training Assistant.
11 News also went inside the Emergency Operations Center to see how leaders learned about the disasters, and made decisions on how to respond.
Officials inside say communication is key, because officials have no idea what kind of mock emergency is on tap, just like a real life situation.
“You react as you are trained, so you react only as well as you are trained,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor.
This yearly drill also serves as a reminder for families to always make sure you have a plan in place in case of any type of emergency or disaster.
Nearly 600 people from the American Red Cross, ACOVA, Colorado Division of Emergency management, local hospitals, Pueblo School District 700, the Pueblo Chemical Depot, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, and a half-dozen other first –response agencies in Pueblo County participated in the drill.
The exercise is part of the Pueblo Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP). The program is overseen by the Emergency Services Bureau of the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office.
The drill is federally evaluated testing crews’ response capability and resources.
Local response agencies work hard all year long planning and preparing for the drill.
The drill required activation of the Pueblo County Emergency Operations Center, the Pueblo Community Joint Information Center, and field decontamination and treatment facilities.