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Triennial exercise in Jamestown improves communication among agencies

A triennial full-scale exercise will be held Monday, Aug. 15, at the Jamestown Regional Airport

Airport Simulation one.jpg
Emergency personnel tend to accident victims during a simulated aviation crash in 2019 at the Jamestown Regional Airport. A full-scale exercise will begin at about 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, at the Jamestown Regional Airport.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo
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JAMESTOWN – A full-scale exercise Monday, Aug. 15, at Jamestown Regional Airport that simulates an event with mass casualties helps different agencies in emergency services work together and make improvements on communicating with each other in case such an event would occur, according to Jim Reuther, Jamestown fire chief.

“When it comes to emergency service, this is stuff we prepare for,” said Jim Reuther, Jamestown fire chief, referring to the importance of the full-scale exercise.

Katie Hemmer, airport director, said the triennial exercise is required for the airport to meet certain stands and obligations. The exercise will begin at about 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15.

“It is a requirement of our Part 139 certification,” she said. “That is what certifies us underneath the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to have commercial aircraft.”

Motorists might see emergency personnel in the area of the Jamestown Regional Airport and should take alternate routes if possible.

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Hemmer also said it is good to make sure all agencies have practiced responding to an emergency mass-casualty event. If there are issues with communication and logistics, those problems can be addressed during or after the exercise so they don’t have to be addressed during a real event, she said.

Although each agency’s supervisor knows what type of event first responders will respond to, Andrew Berkey, emergency medical services operations manager for Jamestown Area Ambulance, said he doesn’t want the responders to know what kind of event they are responding to other than it is a mass-casualty event.

“We don’t want to ruin the exercise,” he said. “We get better if we don’t know what we are going into.”

The mass-casualty event is meant to stress the resources of each agency, Berkey said. He said the triennial exercise teaches Jamestown Area Ambulance staff how to communicate and work with other agencies so everyone can help save lives and protect property.

“Anytime we have all these agencies involved, communication is No. 1, so these are vital,” he said.

Berkey said a mass-casualty event is anytime the demand outweighs the resources of each agency.

“For example, our Jamestown Area Ambulance staffs three to four ambulances a day, and in the best-case scenario, I can get two patients in one ambulance,” he said. “So if I got 10 patients, that exceeds my resource ability, and we are now dealing with a mass casualty, so now you have to triage. You have to treat the priority … people first before rendering care to people who are less (injured). It is a very different mindset than what we are used to working in, which is exactly why we have to train for that.”

Reuther said each agency always learns something new during the exercise, which is important to do because the agencies learn what resources they have. He said each agency and personnel have a role when responding to a mass-casualty situation.

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“The other thing is that just not one agency can handle an event of this type by themselves,” he said. “You have to have security, you need to have fire and rescue. You have to have the (American) Red Cross. … When you have enough agencies that can work together, hopefully, we have a better outcome.”

In the past, the Jamestown Fire Department has learned to take a little more time and make sure all victims are accounted for and how to improve their communications, he said. He said it gives the department personnel a chance to go into a unified command where someone from each agency works at a command center for the mass-casualty event instead of having just one incident commander.

“It’s a way that you can request resources,” he said. “It’s a way that you can work with one another from each agency saying we’re doing this at this time but we are right there together in that, I don’t want to say a room, but wherever the incident command post can be set up at.”

He said working with other agencies in the incident command post makes everything during the response flow much easier.

Reuther said firefighters might have to make phone calls and take a truck to provide a path of rescue during the exercise. He said other agencies will come and help if a fire needs to be extinguished during the exercise.

“Otherwise it's to rescue and assist EMS (emergency medical services) with triage,” he said.

He said the agencies later discuss how the training went and what improvements can be made.

“You always learn something from these even though someone like me has been around for 32 years,” he said.

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Reuther said the triennial training is important because each agency does not have the same personnel every three years.

“We’ve got a lot of young providers who have never had to do anything like this thankfully, so (we are) getting them in a training environment where they get the opportunity to learn how to take command of an officer position and execute it in a training scenario,” Berkey said.

Berkey said Ringdahl EMS, the parent company of Jamestown Area Ambulance, has done active-shooter training in Tower City, North Dakota, and will do one next week in Casselton, North Dakota. He said Jamestown Area Ambulance personnel try to train in any scenarios where they are invited.

“Even just car accidents where there are four or five vehicles and you got 10 patients, those are situations where you need to be at your best,” he said.

Hemmer said volunteers will have notecards that describe the "injuries" they will then act out during Monday's exercise.

Other agencies that will be involved include the Stutsman County Communications Center, Jamestown Police Department, American Red Cross and Jamestown Regional Medical Center. Entities that may have roles include the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office, Jamestown Rural Fire Department and Central Valley Health District. The airline and Transportation Security Administration can also participate in the exercise.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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