Area agencies take part in turnpike crash test

High schoolers volunteer for mass-casualty drill

Authorities respond to ‘injured’ people in a  simulated drill on the Ohio Turnpike during a Lucas and northern Wood county mass casualty incident response plan exercise on Wednesday.
Authorities respond to ‘injured’ people in a simulated drill on the Ohio Turnpike during a Lucas and northern Wood county mass casualty incident response plan exercise on Wednesday.

Kasey Stuard’s assigned role at a mass-casualty drill Wednesday was “to cry and be upset” about the chain-reaction pileup on the Ohio Turnpike in which she and dozens of other travelers had just been involved.

In that regard, she was surely the only participant who was actually more injured than her character: six days earlier, having already volunteered to play a victim in the exercise, the Sylvania Northview High School junior tore a knee ligament playing volleyball.

PHOTO GALLERY: Accident simulation for preparedness

But that didn’t keep her from showing up at Owens Community College’s Center for Emergency Preparedness to do her part, crutches and knee brace notwithstanding.

“I think it’s awesome,” Miss Stuard said of participating in the drill. “It’s just hard for me to get around.”

She was one of more than 60 high schoolers from five area schools who volunteered as victims for the exercise Wednesday in which scores of firefighters and medical technicians from 15 area fire departments practiced working together on a mass-casualty scenario.

Once the exercise began, first responders gradually arrived on the scene, mimicking their likely response times to a theoretical crash scene on the turnpike between the I-75 and I-280 interchanges.

After assessing the situation, their task was to locate and evaluate “victims,” establishing their priority for care, and to direct those least “injured” and able to move on their own to immediate safety.

Agencies from throughout Lucas and northern Wood counties, along with the Bedford Fire Department from Michigan and Allen-Clay in Ottawa County, participated in the exercise, informally named “Pile Up on the Pike.”

Patients were “sent” to six hospitals in Lucas County, with a separate group of students playing the patient roles at the hospitals.

“Our purpose is that we have a plan to respond” to such an event, Toledo Fire Lt. Cheryl Hill, the exercise’s director, said afterward. “We need to be able to activate the plan and get resources on the road right away.”

According to the scenario, the chain-reaction crash was caused by a tornado, but such a pileup could easily result from other causes, such as fog or a snow squall.

The 2½-hour exercise, paid for with a $55,600 federal Department of Homeland Security grant, was intended “to be applicable to any kind of mass-casualty incident,” said Tom Jaksetic, a Toledo Fire and Rescue deputy chief who oversaw its planning.

During a post-exercise critique, one participant cited radio congestion caused by the practice of identifying each responding vehicle by its agency name as well as unit number. Within Lucas County, all fire-agency vehicles have unique numbers, but in a multicounty exercise that benefit was lost.

Another participant suggested developing a color-tag system to identify the victim status of vehicles as unoccupied or to indicated urgency of injured occupants, so rescuers wouldn’t have to continuously do re-checks.

“The point is to identify problems and solve those issues,” said Chris Nye, a Sylvania Township Fire Department captain, who identified interagency communications as a common trouble spot.

Contact David Patch at: or 419-724-6094.