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Participants gather at the scene of the Yellow Rhino emergency preparednes exercise scene (May 22, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale

“Yellow Rhino” multi-agency emergency preparedness exercise held today (photos)

Picture a scene where a truck collides with a school bus crash resulting in the bus rolling over multiple times and ending up on its side in a parking lot off Custer School Road. There are multiple victims with varying degrees and types of injuries. So now what?

This was the scenario several emergency response agencies put together for an exercise today that would help to assess their abilities and methods for responding in the best ways possible.

Several dozen people converged on Signature Plastic’s parking lot this morning, including many Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and other volunteers covered in makeup to simulate injuries and wearing torn clothes prepared to play the role of victims.

john gargett briefs participants before the beginning of yellow rhino emergency preparedness exercise
WCSO DEM Deputy Director John Gargett briefs participants before the beginning of the Yellow Rhino emergency preparedness exercise (May 22, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale

After a quick briefing by Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management (DEM) Deputy Director John Gargett, all the ‘victims’ took their places around a decommissioned school bus that had been placed on its side by Heston Hauling crews the day before.

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bus drivers receive last minute reminders and guidance from NWFR
Ferndale School District bus drivers receive last minute reminders and guidance from North Whatcom Fire & Rescue (May 22, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale

The first upon the scene were Ferndale School District bus drivers who have been trained to provide initial first aid that goes beyond basic first aid including methods for stopping bleeding and packing open wounds. They went from victim to victim, assessing and documenting each one while providing first aid including applying tourniquets and packing open wounds.

First responders, including North Whatcom Fire and Rescue crews and law enforcement, took their parts later on, collecting information from the bus drivers and further assessing the victims as they prepared the victims for transport.

The exercise then moved to PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center and St Luke’s Community Health Education Center in Bellingham where administrative school staff went through the process of accounting for each student and reuniting them with parents and guardians.

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Gargett said no one could remember the last time an local emergency preparedness exercise was based on a bus crash scenario. Recent exercises have been based on armed violent threats on school campuses.

Agencies and others participating in today’s exercise included:

  • Washington State Patrol (WSP)
  • Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO)
  • WCSO Division of Emergency Management (DEM)
  • North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR)
  • Whatcom County Fire District 7 (NWFD7)
  • Volunteer Mobilization Center
  • Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
  • Ferndale Police Department
  • Ferndale School District administration
  • Ferndale School District transportation
  • PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center
  • Signature Plastics
  • Heston Hauling

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