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Is L.A. ready for 'The Big One'?

November 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Thursday's ShakeOut drill gave first responders a chance to practice triage on a large scale.A 7.8 quake brought down a building at Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills Thursday. In the earthquake simulation, 300 students were hurt.

Many students played the role of being critically injured in the largest emergency response exercise ever to test California's readiness.

"Our hospitals are going to be inundated. This is what we call a medical surge," said Dep. Chief Emil Mack, LAFD.

Within 10 minutes first responders made their way to the injured. Medics took 60 seconds to assess the condition of each injured person.

Those that could not be saved were immediately tagged.

"If they are deceased then they will either be left in place or moved into a morgue area. From here they will be moved by transportation to Holy Cross or to another facility," said Dep. Chief Mack.

Those who were in need of immediate care were placed on red mats. Yellow and green mats were for those who were in need of minor or delayed care.

"Sometimes when we are overwhelmed like this, people who are in cardiac arrest we do CPR first. If we are in the Start system and we have a patient in cardiac arrest they go to the morgue. They end up passing away," said Batt. Chief Joe Castro, LAFD.

In a mass causality situation, first responders are trained to go by the book -- sort and treat high priority patients first. Because of this, some losses have to be accepted.

"In order for us to save the greater good that patient is put as a delayed because there is nothing we can do for them here right now," said Capt. Steve Ruda, LAFD.

As part of the drill Governor Schwarzenegger arrived by helicopter to the disaster area. He was able to see the rescue effort firsthand.

"It is one thing to talk about being ready for an emergency, but it is another thing to actually test it and practice it. It allows us to see each year where the shortcomings are and to correct the shortcomings. That is what this exercise is all about," said Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Organizers called this the largest earthquake drill in history. It is not just for first responders -- the goal is to also get average people thinking about what to do when disaster strikes.

"Listen to the first responders. Listen to their direction," said Capt. Ruda.


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