[Note: see the photo gallery below.]
There was quite a bit of mayhem around Flagler County this weekend.
The Emergency Operations Center behind the Government Services Building turned into an emergency room Friday night, after nurses and doctors walked off the job, leaving the work to paramedics: an abused child, another child coughing her lungs out, a dead child brought in by two young panicked girls. The same evening, not far from the Flagler County jail, a SWAT team was called in to a hostage situation behind Justice Lane, where the sheriff’s deputies usually train. It was dark, loud, people may or may not have been shot, keeping paramedics extremely busy. Don’t ask about the paintball. There was a bonfire too somewhere, with burn victims, and some guy who just refused any help whatsoever.
Saturday was a real mess. There was a bicycle accident with all sorts of wailing and broken-limbed victims on Palm Coast Parkway—conveniently, at the Palm Coast fire station. Behind the Bunnell water tower on State Road 100, inmates corralled in their orange jail suits behind chicken-wire, Guatnanamo-style, broke into a riot of injuries: three of them down almost at the same time, in five to 10 minute intervals. In Flagler Beach, a boating accident had three people drowning or trying to drown repeatedly for half the day. And so it went.
Fortunately, nobody got hurt. Except maybe for some paintball bruising a muscle or two.
It was all fake. But it wasn’t exactly play. It was a nearly 24-hour exercise and competition involving 10 fire rescue teams from Nebraska and Florida, including two from Boca Raton, a student team from St. Augustine, the Bunnell, Daytona Beach and Port Orange fire departments and the St. Johns Fire Department. The drill entailed 10 scenarios, some of them simultaneous, beginning at 8 p.m. Friday evening and ending at 5 p.m. the following day.
With Dennis Kline leading the way, the Flagler County Fire Department and its Professional Firefighters Association local 4337 put it all together to recreate what seven of the firefighters have been practicing and learning in international competition in the Czech Republic, where they’ve brought home awards in the past two years. The idea of the competition, Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito, is to “share the knowledge that we gained from going overseas. This is the first time that a 24-hour competition is being done in the United States. It was modeled after what we did in Prague.”
Flagler’s firefighters did not actually compete. They provided the judges and the volunteers, a corps of some 50 people, many of them children and adolescents, who performed as patients, bystanders, inmates and mysteries competitors had to figure out. Other agencies contributed. “Palm Coast and Flagler Beach are loaning us equipment and Bunnell is allowing us to use some of their facilities. The Sheriff’s office is also helping us,” Kline said. “We really want to thank all of them for assisting us.”
The Flagler County Commission contributed $5,000 to the event (in addition to the $5,000 it contributed for the firefighters’ trip to Prague). Woody’s, the barbecue restaurant on State Road 100, provided both evening meals for paramedics, firefighters, volunteers and guests. The staging area Friday and Saturday evening was held in the old Russell Stover candy shop, now emptied, next-door to Woody’s, with County Commissioner Milissa Holland and Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson attending both evenings.
First and second place went to the two teams from Boca Raton. Third place went to the Temple Terrace Fire Rescue team.
“It’s a great opportunity to get the training and do a lot of things that you normally wouldn’t do day to day to prepare yourself for when the real true emergencies happen,” Chris Taylor, who’s been with the Port Orange Fire Department 11 years, said just after finishing the jail-riot scenario. “It’s wonderful training. And to the level that Flagler is able to put this on is better than anything we’ve ever done. We’ve been competing for eight years. This is the closest you can get to having a real-life patient. Nothing compares. By fare the best training available. And what makes this competition stand out is the amount of opportunities we get to treat patients, because we’ve done six scenarios so far and we’ve still got six more to do.”
The Competition in Images