Nashua agencies participate in mass casualty exercise


NASHUA — Training for mass casualty events is already a challenge for first responders, but dealing with small children during training exercises creates a unique set of problems.

On Friday, several agencies from throughout the Gate City participated in a pediatric mass casualty simulation to evaluate how prepared they are in the case of a community disaster. 

“I already know that we will need to improve our communications and the logistics of notification,” Christopher Stawasz, regional director of American Medical Response, said prior to the training exercise. 

As part of the simulation, a driver was texting and driving when he lost control of his speeding truck, it veered off the roadway and crashed into a crowded playground at Ledge Street Elementary School, critically injuring numerous children and pinning one of them underneath the truck. 


Pediatric mannequins were used in the scenario. City police, firefighters and AMR staff were charged with assessing the situation, determining which children had the most severe injuries and transporting them to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center where the emergency department and pediatric staff were on standby. 

“We practice these drills on an ongoing basis, especially active shooter or hazmat situations, but this one is a little different with children involved,” said Stawasz. 

“Pediatrics are challenging anyway because they are small humans and they have different treatment and different medications. It is very difficult because emotions are also involved. It is one of the hardest things.” 

The staff at Ledge Street Elementary School also played a vital role in Friday’s training exercise by keeping the children calm, contacting authorities and remaining on the scene until help arrived. 

“Most hospitals are not equipped to handle a large number of pediatric patients at once,” said Mark Hastings, director of emergency management for SNHMC. 

He stressed the importance of having the city’s police, fire and ambulance crews prepared for a mass casualty event involving children, as well as the staff at local hospitals. 

The training exercise also involved actors portraying media representatives and distraught parents. Overall, nearly 10 pediatric patients with various blunt force trauma injuries were transported as part of the simulation.

About four police officers, five ambulances, four fire trucks, three physicians, eight nurses, two anesthesiologists, two surgeons and an incident command team participated in the drill from the initial stages of establishing incident command, to triage, transport, scene preservation, additional transport via Boston MedFlight and more. 

Posted: 10/29/2018 by KIMBERLY HOUGHTON, Union Leader Correspondent