RSVP in Missoula Prepares for Disasters

Missoula Aging Services RSVP- 2011 Missoula County Disaster Drill

Report by Megan Hill, Volunteer Coordinator at Missoula Aging Services

On Saturday, May 7, 2011, 51 volunteers gathered at Missoula International Airport’s Fire Station to participate in the 2011 Missoula County Disaster Drill. The day went off without a hitch and did an excellent job testing the capacity of emergency providers at Missoula International Airport, St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center to respond effectively to family reunification in the event of a multiple casualty incident.

The Disaster Drill was a full-scale exercise sponsored and hosted by Missoula County and organized with a Planning Committee composed of numerous organizations, emergency service providers in Missoula County and Missoula Aging Services RSVP Community Task Force members. RSVP Community Task Force provided five trained volunteers serving as recruiters and providing volunteer management. Through collaboration with 16 Missoula County Emergency Service Providing organizations such as Missoula County Department of Emergency Services, both local hospitals, Missoula International Airport, Missoula City and Rural Fire Department as well as the Missoula Police Department, Montana Highway Patrol and the 911 Response Center, volunteers were able to serve the Missoula community.

The purpose of this exercise was to evaluate the response of emergency service providers in relation to current disaster preparedness plans and capabilities for a multiple casualty event. Volunteers played a crucial role in testing the capacity of all emergency service providers involved in the drill to reunify families with victims and share information regarding results of a mass casualty siltation.

Volunteers brought experience and enthusiasm to the exercise to help responders at three locations test their ability to relay information, treat shock victims, and manage crowds at each facility. Volunteers were given a short description of a mock victim and asked to uncover three facts about each person: 1) Where is the mock victim located? 2) What is the status of their condition? 3) Was everything handled properly?

Volunteers were split into three groups and transported by bus to the Missoula International Airport Terminal, St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center. Each location responded differently to the surge of concerned “family members”/volunteers and worked within the parameters of their disaster plans to provide information to volunteers.

At the final debriefing session with lead volunteers, several positive and constructive suggestions were mentioned. Everyone agreed that the event was well-organized and that volunteers did an excellent job staying in character and working to add a sense of “realism” to the drill. Organizers found volunteer feedback to be of great value for future planning.

Needless to say, the 2011 Missoula County Disaster Drill was a success. The event resulted in 51 volunteers contributing 446 hours of donated time to the event, including 5 Volunteer Managers who gave 131 hours of their time to help recruit and manage volunteers. This drill would not have been possible without the help of these volunteers and the collaboration of emergency service providers in Missoula County.

Line Break