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Algonquin College students stage mock disaster

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Algonquin College students were pushed to the limits last Friday as they were tested in a situation that could be altogether real in the day and age we are living in.

The college's waterfront campus staged an elaborate mock disaster training exercise built on the premise that a terrorist cell is attempting to deploy a nuclear dirty bomb forcing multiple first responders to not only deal with immediate casualties but minimize the danger to the public.

More than 122 students from the Police Foundations, Radiation Safety, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Practical Nursing, and Social Service Worker programs took part in the exercise which ran two iterations. Supporting the event was the County of Renfrew Paramedic Service and Orgne Air.

“This gets all the different courses working with other agencies and learning to co-operate and communicate with each other,” said Dan Labelle, Algonquin College Police Foundations program co-ordinator, who was overseeing the exercise.

Using the Kiwanis Fieldhouse at Riverside Park as its location, the scenario called for a house occupied by a terrorist sleeper cell that has accidently detonated a radiological dispersive device (RDD), which combines a conventional explosive device typically such as a bomb with radioactive materials. Initially, the Police Foundations arrive at the scene in response to a 911 call. When they realize they have mass casualties and a dirty bomb, it requires them to call in paramedics and specialists who deal with radioactivity.

During the exercise, the members of the different programs were working closely together, dealing with overlapping responsibilities as they tackled the same disaster scene. This included assessing and securing the scene, helping the injured and taking them to the nursing department for treatment, scanning for radiation leakage and decontaminating the area as needed, supporting the victims and their relatives in the wake of the accident, and conducting investigations.

“There are always new questions that come up when you do a scenario,” added Labelle. “There are always steps and procedures but there are a lot of things that are common sense and reactionary. So the students get more confidence when they do it.”

Once the “casualties,” which are year one Police Foundation students acting as role players, are loaded into ambulances, they are whisked away to the campus where nursing and social service worker students treat both the victims of the accident and those involved in the crime in a mock hospital emergency room. Nursing students provided physical care for those in need, while social worker students tried to provide victim support in the wake of death and trauma.

This exercise represents 25 per cent of the final mark for second-year police foundations students. It certainly proved to be a challenging test for many of them.

“You come in here and it's just chaos,” said Bradley Daechsel. “There are multiple priorities so what do you do first. But that's real-life.”

“It was very educational and good practice to prepare for the future in policing,” added Miranda Bone.

SChase@postmedia.com