Communication is key to emergency response |

Communication is key to emergency response

Code “external triage” went out on the radio Wednesday afternoon.

It’s only used when there are a large group of people suffering. In this case it meant five women and five men had been injured in a wreck near the airport and that paramedics should bring the most seriously injured to the hospital first.

At 1:12 p.m., a South Lake Tahoe Fire battalion chief took charge of the situation and coordinated workers from nine agencies to get the job done. Between 1:14 p.m. and 1:52 p.m. all 10 people who had suffered traumatic injuries were transported to Barton Memorial Hospital.

“The challenge was trying to create order out of chaos,” said South Tahoe Fire Incident Commander Scott Douglass. “The incident was pretty complex. There were two extrications. Dealing with additional ambulances and a lot of people, that just adds to the chaos.”

As of Thursday, the wreck had not produced any fatalities. Douglass said injuries he observed at the scene included: lacerations and back, hip and pelvic damage.

The patients arrived at the hospital and filled 10 of the 13 beds in the emergency room. Eventually, two of the 10 were airlifted to Washoe Medical Center.

“We have a plan, every department in the hospital follows a plan. It went very well,” said Mary Flores, a nurse who is manager of the emergency department. “We just had a practice drill in June for this so it was all fresh in everybody’s mind.”

By the time the injured came in, five doctors and two surgeons were ready to go and all the needed medical equipment was at hand.

“It’s all about communication,” Flores said. “I think yesterday is evidence why it is important we have practice drills. In Tahoe, with all the tourists, something like this can happen at any time.”

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