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Local agencies conduct emergency drill

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Big Sky Fire Department personnel move a patient out of the crashed bus watched by patients with less severe injuries. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR

BIG SKY – The Big Sky Fire Department, Yellowstone Club Fire Department, Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department collaboratively ran a Mass Casualty Incident Drill on Tuesday responding to a mock bus crash in the Gallatin Canyon. 

The drill was a way for the agencies to practice their emergency response, mobilize resources, and ensure they’re all prepared to best serve the Big Sky community during an emergency.

In the scenario, a rafting bus had crashed and flipped near Deer Creek, blocking traffic on U.S. Highway 191 and injuring 15 people. This meant the only outside resources the agencies could draw on were the Hebgen Basin Fire District and the YC fire department. 

A Gallatin County Deputy Sheriff provides an overview of the crash scene to BSFD. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

The drill was real time, according to Big Sky Deputy Fire Chief Seth Barker, meaning the responders made use of the resources available rather than calling in extra staff to keep the response realistic. In total, Barker said the fire department responded with two ambulances and a fire engine with a total of six personnel. The YC fire department responded with one ambulance, one command staff and a total of three personnel.

It took 47 minutes to triage and transport all the patients.

“The guys did a really good job today,” Barker said. 

“I feel like it’s not an if, it’s a when, and so we want to be prepared for something in case a catastrophic event happened,” he said.

The patients were ultimately transferred to the Big Sky Medical Center where the hospital staff took over care. 

Chaney Coleman, trauma program coordinator and staff nurse at the medical center, said she was happy with the way the drill went.

Three BSFD personnel load a severely injured patient into an ambulance. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

“We all went into this knowing this is a learning curve and every time you do any kind of a drill, there’s usually a lot of things that you find that we could improve on,” she said. “I’m really excited with how it went inside the ER.”

Coleman added that since Big Sky Medical Center is a small facility with limited resources, trainings like this are important for staff to work through and make decisions about how to allocate resources to best serve patients. 

“I really appreciate Big Sky Fire putting on this drill and of course, we always appreciate the volunteers for coming in,” she said. 

The drill was executed well, Barker said, and benefited everyone involved.

“This is a very huge, collaborative drill between all agencies that are working together for a common goal of making sure we’re addressing the community’s needs and identifying target hazards,” he said.

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