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Mock disaster is final test for first-aid students

LACOMBE — Final exams aren’t usually life and death matters.

Nine Outdoor Pursuits students at Canadian Union College know differently.

Their semester-long international advanced wilderness first-aid course ended with a simulated mudslide wiping out a Nepali school, leaving two dead and nearly 30 injured.

“Graduates should be able to help out from anything like Haitian earthquakes to flooding from typhoons in the Philippines like has happened recently — and maybe even a weekend camping trip,” said instructor Paul Lehmann.

The Outdoor Pursuits Department offers two-year diploma and three- and four-year bachelor of arts degrees with skills in practical outdoor knowledge, leadership and counselling, giving graduates a wide variety of job options.

Staying mostly silent, a Grade 8 and 9 College Heights Christian School class acted as victims, spreading out over the college’s central campus on Lacombe’s north side to await rescue in the one-and-a-half-hour exercise.

Each sported a sticker detailing injuries or symptoms; broken limbs, severe bleeding and unconsciousness were common. Many had conditions to further test rescuers, among them hypothermia, schizophrenia, aggression, hysteria and even pregnancy.

“It’s better than school because there’s no homework after this,” said Barbara Kiers, 13.

Most took the scenario seriously, doing their best to limp, groan and feign other injuries. By the midway point, it was a lark for some, two girls even singing the disco anthem Stayin’ Alive to entertain themselves.

As the exercise progressed, Lehmann told his first aiders about the threats of a second mudslide, violent lightning strikes and a possible natural gas leak in a nearby building.

“One told me this is quite a reality check. They’re going to debrief themselves a lot at the end.”

Rescuers searched for victims, then performed triage assessments and basic first aid before gathering the injured together for further treatment. All were then moved indoors to a makeshift hospital and assembled for transport.

“It went pretty good,” said first aider Kim McKay. “We got those out that we could.”

Team leader Leo Gulfan wasn’t so certain.

“My team did exceptionally well. I think we got everybody pretty quickly out of the danger zone.

“But we lost five people and as far as I know, we only had two at the start. If we’d come out with more people (alive), it would have been better.”

The scenario and exam over, the newly resurrected joined other victims and their rescuers for a pizza lunch.



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