Rocky Vista University (RVU) took part in a simulation exercise called “Operation Follow Through,” alongside local police departments, fire stations, and other emergency responders. The simulation, set up to resemble a series of detonated car bombs, was planned to assist in training in every part of a disaster: from the initial police officers on the scene, to the paramedics, and finally to the hospital’s emergency room.
The extensive training scenario was planned by South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR). “The fire department trains a lot; the cops train a lot; the emergency room docs train a lot; and the surgeons train a lot—and they’re all very good at what they do,” said Jason Camper, Training and Safety Lieutenant. “But rarely do we train with all of them and run all the way through [a disaster]. That’s how we came up with Operation Follow Through.”
The mass casualty incident took place over the course of three days in the Inverness area of Centennial in an office building parking lot. Several cars (which had previously been detonated in a controlled environment) were placed around the parking lot amid smoke machines. Victims—many of whom were second-year medical students at RVU—with simulated injuries and wounds lay about, screaming and crying for help. Deidre McGee, Coordinator for Surgical Simulation and the Military Track at RVU, led the moulage team that created the injuries. Many victims also wore RVU’s cut suits, which are human-worn simulators that allow surgery and other procedures to be performed in a realistic way which further heightens the stress of the situation.
After clearing the scene of immediate danger, police officers began helping the victims until the paramedics arrived. After being loaded into ambulances, victims were taken to Sky Ridge Medical Center (SRMC). They were then brought into the emergency room to continue the training scenario with a complete surgery. The surgeries were performed by residents of the joint Rocky Vista University and Sky Ridge Medical Center Surgery Residency Program.
“This drill was set up to flood the senses to make the [emergency responders] feel like this is real,” said Ryan Shelton, Training Lieutenant for SMFR. “This exhibits the right amount of stress levels and pushes them toward their failure point for their skills. Through time, this will denature the stress of that paramedic so [in a real emergency] they are working at the utmost efficiency. You can [work on] a task trainer all day long but until you put the pressure on the crews, you’ll never know how they’ll perform in real life.”
Additional agencies involved included Douglas County Sheriff, Jefferson County Sheriff, Arapahoe County Sheriff, Action Care Ambulance, Cunningham Fire Rescue, Franktown Fire District, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.