Smoke, screams and blaring signals filled the air, but there was no safer place in Chilliwack on Thursday morning than the Justice Institute campus.
First responders from the RCMP, fire department, ambulance, search and rescue, border services, as well as nurses, doctors, and plenty of students training in those areas came together to take part in emergency simulation exercises.
The Justice Institute of B.C. (JIBC) will often challenge their students in these types of immersive training simulations.
But Jesse Sheridan, Paramedic Instructor at JIBC, said that this simulation was their biggest thus far.
“Sims,” as Sheridan called them, are at the heart of JIBC’s education and training. The hands-on learning allows students not only to practice what they’ve learned, but also to gain insight from seasoned professionals.
Ambulances and fire trucks laid quietly in wait until 10 a.m., when a residence building went up in smoke and shots were fired at a makeshift border crossing.
According to Sheridan, the goal of the simulation was to address the entire continuum of care. Services are called to the scenes, they assess the situation, arrest any perpetrators, and triage, transport and treat the patients. At every step of the way, students are learning.
It’s also the most effective way to challenge and practice the essential process of inter-agency collaboration and teamwork.
“It’s critical for the students to learn how the agencies work together to reach a unified goal, which is public safety,” Sheridan explained.
And the crisis situations are portrayed to mirror reality as closely as possible.
Smoke poured out of the building, police pointed guns at acting criminals, victims – doused in fake blood or ash – were screaming, coughing, and crying out for help. Real-world conditions allow students to practice emergency response strategies under the stress and emotions that they would experience in the field.
Once recovered from the scene, patients were brought to the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU), which was brought in for the simulation.
The MMU is housed in a 16-metre tractor-trailer that expands to a 90-square-metre flexible facility with up to eight patient treatment bays.
The unit is capable of clinical treatment that ranges from an outpatient clinic all the way to emergency surgical care. It can be connected to hospital power or city systems, or run on its own power, oxygen, water and waste systems. It’s stocked with up to 72 hours worth of medical supplies, too.
Students were able to test their medical knowledge as they treated patients with carbon monoxide poisoning, burns, gunshot wounds and more – at the scene, in the ambulance, or in the MMU.
According to Dara Davies, clinical operations manager of the MMU, whenever the MMU is not providing real-world medical services across the province, it’s visiting various cities to provide education, awareness and training simulations like this one.
“We practice situations that have happened in the community, and we look at the potential of ‘What could happen here?'” Davies explained.
They’ve recently been in Fernie training professionals and students how to handle a serious motor vehicle accident, and in Port Moody simulating a rescue of passengers aboard a sunken fishing boat, and in Victoria conducting an earthquake-response simulation.
Effective communication and collaboration between public safety agencies is critical and can be challenging. Simulations like this provide invaluable education for the students who will soon be the ones who ensure that our communities safe and well taken care of.