Riverland simulates disaster events

Published 7:10 am Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gang violence continues to sweep through Riverland Community College this week — of the fictional, though realistic, variety.

The college’s second annual Disaster Simulation events began Tuesday and continue through today.

The simulations — which play out at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day — involve Riverland students from eight programs, employees and volunteers who act out and react to emergency situations in real time.

Danyel Helgeson, nursing program director at Riverland, coordinated the event.

“The purpose of it is to allow these students to function as they would as health care, law enforcement or even theater professionals,” she explained.

The simulations begin on the north parking lot of the campus, where Riverland theater students and community volunteers stage a car accident. The driver, playing a gang member, hits a pedestrian — a non-English speaking loved one of a rival gang member. Under the influence of alcohol and drugs, he continues to drive into a light pole.

From there, it is up to Riverland’s law enforcement, nursing, emergency medical technician, pharmacy technician, radiography, health unit coordinator, and human services students to respond to the incident.

“I’m Dr. Helgeson,” Helgeson told the nursing students minutes before the “patients” arrived Wednesday. “There was an accident… There is an ambulance coming in and I don’t know anymore than that.”

This is the first year, Helgeson said, that the simulations include language barriers and a cultural aspect as one of the patients is non-English speaking.

Another patient is resistant to treatment, and law enforcement students acting as hospital security have to control her.

“Students have to take what they are learning in class and in their books into these situations that are very real,” Helgeson said.

Following the simulations, the students attend a debriefing with their individual programs to talk about their response efforts. Then, they meet as a whole with all students to talk about the effort.

The public was also invited to attend the simulations this year. They are able to watch the emergency room proceedings from an observation room on campus that overlooks the nursing program’s simulation lab. The last simulation begins at 1 p.m. today.