VCOM-Auburn Inaugural Disaster Drill Day invites emergency response preparedness collaboration between medical students, AU units and local agencies
The scene was completely unexpected.
Dozens of second-year medical students in dark blue scrubs milled around the triage tents and tarps, many with looks of uncertainty on their faces, as disaster “victims” were brought into their areas. The “victims,” played by first-year medical students, all had pre-determined injuries and were in various stages of distress. Suddenly, recalling their training, the second-year medical students sprang into action, pulling from the medical skills many of them had cultivated thus far, mostly from a computer screen or classroom.
The inaugural VCOM-Auburn Disaster Drill Day took place at the back of
Such was the atmosphere on April 28 at the inaugural Disaster Drill Day, hosted by the Edward via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn (VCOM) and in collaboration with Auburn University Risk Management & Safety (RMS). Other participants included first responders with the Auburn and Opelika Fire divisions, Auburn University Public Safety and members of the Campus Community Emergency Response Team (CCERT). Through two simulated disaster incidents – including a wreck with hazardous chemical spill and a tornado strike - more than 150 second-year VCOM medical students were evaluated on their emergency response abilities in order to obtain their National Basic Life Support certification.
The participants went into the drill blind, with no clue as to what the disasters would be or of the injuries they would have to know how to treat. The same can be said for real-life mass casualty situations, where every person affected – from local first responders and medical professionals, to universities and community members – must know how to respond in order to survive or save a life.
Though the original purpose of the Disaster Day Drill was to introduce medical students to the realities of a natural or man-made disaster as part of their learning, the overall resulting significance of the event was twofold…
Full-Scale Disaster Preparedness Scenarios Offer Life-Like Learning Environment
Firefighters and first responders with Auburn & Opelika
Tornados, fires, flooding, active shooters, bomb threats, hazardous chemical spills, civil disturbance… all these, and more, are risk vulnerabilities faced by today’s public/private universities and colleges.
Campus emergencies involving natural disasters and/or man-made crisis are not new developments in the academic environment, but in the last decade, disasters have affected university and college campuses with disturbing frequency, causing not only death and injury, but also monetary losses resulting from classroom disruption and damages to buildings/infrastructure.
The 2007 Virginia Tech massacre claimed the lives of 32 people. In 2009, students were evacuated from a Central Michigan University building following a chemical spill in a lab where one person was injured. Hurricane Irene caused damage and flooding to five east coast universities in 2011, while the April 27 tornado outbreak wreaked havoc on Alabama campuses just five months earlier. A murder/suicide resulted in nine deaths at an Oregon community college in 2015, and in mid-2017, two separate fires caused mass evacuations and damage at Boston University.
Though disasters themselves are common, colleges and universities that practice massive disaster preparedness scenarios involving students, faculty, staff and outside agencies have just become more prevalent. The State University of New York College at Oneonta (SUNY) has been conducting emergency simulations annually for several years, including simulated power failures, heat waves, and suicide and terrorist attacks. According to the Daily Star, SUNY partners with local police and fire agencies and other first responders “to create drills that are as life-like as possible to best prepare students, faculty and staff.”
Though Auburn University has held disaster drills on campus before, this was VCOM-Auburn’s first experience with disaster simulation and training as part of student curriculum. VCOM is a private, non-profit Osteopathic Medical School, with a campus located in Auburn University Research Park. The college has two other campuses – one in Virginia and one in South Carolina – where disaster simulations and training have been familiar annual events since the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. Disaster simulations give medical students a closer look at how the environment inside a hospital could be impacted during a mass casualty situation and what type of skills would be expected of them.
|VCOM-Auburn students in theater paint played "victims" |
of the first disaster scenario, a car crash and chemical spill.
The first scenario of VCOM-Auburn’s Disaster Drill Day was a wreck involving university vans and a truck carrying hazardous chemicals, resulting in a hazardous chemical spill. Training alongside VCOM-Auburn students during this first scenario were more than 10 local first responders from Auburn and Opelika Fire divisions, and the East Alabama Medical Clinic EMS. Several of them suited up in HAZMAT gear to survey the scene of the accident, get the chemical spill under control and then venture through a life-like decontamination station.
Nearby, “casualties” of the wreck were delivered to the triage station where medical students began to assess their injuries before having them transported inside the school where three different simulated emergency rooms had been erected. Here, the real challenge for the students began. Assessing the wounded, they were tasked with performing various medical procedures on their patients to include delivering a baby from a “casualty” who went into labor (this was completed on a simulation dummy); properly sewing up a flesh wound; and/or inserting an IV, among others.
Second-year VCOM-Auburn medical student Clayton Lester said the hands-on experience of the drill was eye opening for him. During the first scenario, Lester had the opportunity to apply a suture to a wound and to insert a chest tube on a patient.
“I’ve done medical missions before where I learned how to set up a clinic,” said Lester, who was also a graduate of Auburn University. “But this type of learning, early on in my career, has given me a glimpse of what I might expect to see during a real disaster. It was chaotic, but beneficial training.”
VCOM-Auburn Associate Dean for Simulation and Technology Glenn Nordehn, DO, said there is no perfect drill. “However, this was a great training opportunity for the students to use their skills to improvise as well as problem solve the unexpected,” Nordehn added. “The expectation is for the students to learn how to act and how to manage in a disaster situation.”
Serving as the first joint disaster-training event involving VCOM, Auburn University and outside first responder’s organizations, much went into preparing the most useful and realistic disaster scenarios…
Where University & Local Agency Disaster Preparedness Intersect
|RMS Mike Freeman, pictured with a reporter from the |
Opelika-Auburn News, was enlisted to plan the VCOM-
Auburn disaster scenarios.
Members of RMS HAZMAT suited up to run the
Michael Freeman is a 28-year veteran of the environmental health and public safety industries, and has been employed with Auburn University’s RMS Department for more than 10 years. A former member of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army, Freeman has worked in fire, EMS and law enforcement. As a member of RMS, Freeman is a certified HAZMAT technician, responsible for HAZMAT management, spill response and transportation, among other things.
In January, VCOM contacted Freeman, who had experience conducting tabletop-type drills and had helped to train local responders on HAZMAT specifics, to ask for his help planning disaster scenarios for the Disaster Drill Day event.
“VCOM needed eight hours of instruction for the event,” Freeman said. “They also had certain components their students needed that I had to work into the scenarios. For example, they needed a HAZMAT component, traumas, a mass casualty situation, decontamination and EMS-type training.”
Around these components, Freeman also determined how best to utilize local first responders and university first responders, to maximize training for all. For example, during the chemical spill portion of the first scenario, other members of RMS trained in HAZMAT management, refreshed their skills by suiting up in personal protective equipment and helping casualties through the decontamination station, while local first responders trained in HAZMAT were responsible for utilizing their skills to contain the spill. In addition, members of Campus CERT - groups of trained individuals who have volunteered to take an active role during campus emergencies - got a refresher in search and rescue procedures as part of the tornado strike scenario later that day.
“This was the first large-scale disaster simulation to be held at VCOM-Auburn and in conjunction with local agencies,” Freeman said. “We could have done this without the local agencies, but it would not have been as realistic. If you do not practice real-life scenarios, you will not be prepared."
Deputy Chief of Auburn Fire Division Matt Jordan said first responders do not get the opportunity every day to train for HAZMAT situations. “It’s good to go through the motions like this, and we’ll go back to the station and talk about what we could have done differently,” Jordan said. “Training like this with the university is a benefit for everyone and is the type of infrastructure we want to set up. We like knowing what our resources are.”
With the Disaster Drill Day event, Jordan said local agencies get to combine their training with the knowledge from Auburn University’s subject matter experts to perfect disaster response.
While the various scenarios were playing out on the ground throughout the day, second-year VCOM-Auburn medical student Mike Brisson had quite a different view from above. A part-time paramedic with EAMC, Brisson not only brought along an ambulance to be used as a prop during the event, but also his personal Phantom III drone, which he used to take pictures of and survey the disaster drill scene from the air.
Brisson, also an Army captain and Black Hawk pilot, said his role of the day was to test how applicable drone footage could be, not only to first responders on a scene, but also to medical student training. Drones have become popular allies to first responders in the last few years, being used to more quickly and efficiently survey accident scenes to provide data.
Inside the makeshift hospital, second-year VCOM-
“I can use this drone to get a better view of what type of hazardous materials have spilled,” Brisson said. “A drone can be sent in to survey a scene, like this chemical spill, ahead of first responders. I could see if the truck in the wreck was registered and determine what types of chemicals it was carrying. This type of information all allows first responders to safely prepare for and enter a scene without endangering their lives further.”
While Brisson’s drone provided invaluable footage for first responders to study, it was also broadcast on YouTube for other VCOM-Auburn students and administrators to watch as the events unfolded.
“It’s invaluable experience to offer these types of scenarios,” Brisson said. “From this vantage point, you get familiar with the entire picture of emergency care. To be able to integrate the medical school with community responders is invaluable training.”
Auburn University RMS is currently working on an official Drone Policy for the university as a result of increased drone usage on campus.
VCOM-Auburn marked Disaster Drill Day 2017 as a success and an important learning opportunity, and hopes to make it an annual event the school hosts going forward, possibly expanding involvement to the greater university community in years to come. To see footage of the April 28 event, click here.
Media Contact: Kati Burns, RMS Communications & Marketing | 334-844-2502 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The RMI Intern Experience: UGA student intern finds home among Auburn family
Peachtree City, Georgia native Eric Sutliff climbed to the top of Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University. He got “a taste for Auburn” through popular eateries like The Hound, Amsterdam and Coffee Cat, and immersed himself in culture during local music & arts festivals. He volunteered at a food pantry, played guitar in a worship band and found family in a place miles from home.
|Peachtree City, Georgia summer intern Eric Sutliff spent eight weeks with |
Auburn University Risk Management & Insurance, learning how risk
touches all facets of higher education.
While Sutliff enjoyed the full Auburn experience, he also spent his eight-weeks on campus immersed in the risk management & insurance realm of study as the first intern for Auburn University’s Risk Management & Safety Department (RMS). A hard sought after intern by other viable internship-seeking entities, Sutliff said he chose to accept the internship with Auburn University because he loved the campus and was impressed with how genuine RMS staff were during his interviews.
“I’ve met tons of great people and made some friends for life in Auburn,” said Sutliff, a junior in the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. “Everybody, from the community to the RMS staff, have been great, super friendly and willing to help anyone.”
Sutliff’s summer internship was a result of a $5,000 grant awarded to RMS through the Spencer Educational Foundation, the premier organization awarding scholarships and grants in risk management and insurance, and facilitating internship opportunities. The grant stipulated an eight-week internship at 320 hours. Sutliff works Monday through Friday, eight hours per day, just as a full-time employee might. Besides weekly projects with RMS, Sutliff is also tasked with writing a 10-20 page essay on his internship experience for his Risk Management & Insurance Program with the Terry College of Business.
Sutliff always thought he would go into the sciences or engineering field. He had never considered a career in risk management and insurance until a high school graduation party, where the father of one of his friends told him about the field. The father worked as a risk manager for Chick-fil-a headquarters and invited Sutliff to shadow him on the job one day.
“I discovered that risk management and insurance is really just a blending of all the subjects I already loved – science and statistics,” Sutliff said.
Concluding his studies at the University of Georgia, Sutliff will have earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration, and will have certifications in legal studies and sustainability.
His summer internship with Auburn University RMS was his first taste of risk management and insurance practices in higher education. “I never considered how many different risk areas there are at a large university,” Sutliff said. “I’ve enjoyed getting exposed to these things and learning how they affect the university in a greater sense.
During his internship, Sutliff learned about the many areas that university risk management touches – from athletics and research labs, to museums and dorm rooms. He attended fire extinguisher training classes with members of RMS Fire Safety, performed different environmental and lab safety audits, met with university vendors and learned how to input data into the university’s risk management information system, Origami.
|Sutliff got the opportunity to work with University Risk Management and |
Safety on a number of projects, including one that involved a special
fire-safety training day with the local fire division.
One of his favorite experiences during the internship was a special fire-safety training opportunity between the Auburn Fire Division and RMS at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The university contractor Brendle Sprinkler Company was testing the stadium’s dry sprinkler system for the first time in five years, giving the fire department a unique opportunity to conduct an on-scene fire-fighting scenario at the stadium using their newly purchased high-rise equipment in preparation of the university’s upcoming football season.
“It was fun seeing how the university and the fire department might prepare for a catastrophic event, like a fire during a game, and it was also interesting to learn how RMS partners with the local community and other university units to ensure a safe environment for all,” Sutliff said.
At the University of Georgia, Sutliff is involved with Special Olympics UGA and is a Terry College of Business Ambassador. He is the chair of professional development for his fraternity GAMMA IOTA SIGMA (the international business fraternity for students of insurance, risk management and the actuarial sciences) and is involved with the university ministry, the Wesley Foundation. Sutliff’s time interning with Auburn University RMI, he said, has been helpful in teaching him how to deal with other people on a professional, as well as, relational level in an office setting.
Risk Management Specialist Patrick White, who was the main mentor for Sutliff in RMS, said as the first intern for RMS, Sutliff has set the bar high for future interns.
"Eric's refreshing work-ethic and thoughtful, deliberative attitude have contributed greatly to the advancement of our mission here in Risk Management," White said. "He has been exposed to a vast array of our operations here on campus, and he offers thoughtful questions and possible solutions to better serve each area. Our hope is that Eric can use the knowledge gained in this experience to not only further his career, but also make a meaningful difference in the world of Risk Management."
Sutliff has developed a special interest in the sustainability side of risk management. He will be pursuing a certificate of sustainability. "I've always been interested in the holistic well-being of our planet,” he said. “I think sustainability addresses social justice, economic growth, and environmental stewardship in an attainably realistic manner. My experience with the environmental safety team with Auburn University RMS has shown me applicable ways to address these goals in the risk management industry.”
“I’m excited to get into the insurance industry and to combine some of the things I have learned with other areas I’m passionate about. The Auburn family is a real thing; people are truly interested in who you are and in helping you. I am very thankful for this, and for how open and inclusive the RMS staff have been. It has been a great hands-on learning experience.”
Media Coverage: Inaugural VCOM Disaster Drill Day
On Friday, April 28, Auburn University’s Risk Management & Safety (RMS), several other campus units and local first-responder agencies from the community, took part in the university’s first ever Disaster Drill Day, hosted by the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn, or VCOM.
“Disaster Drill Day” was an emergency response training and disaster simulation event specifically for second-year VCOM medical students, who were evaluated that day by VCOM faculty on their ability to respond and triage casualties. More than 150 second-year students participated as part of evaluation, while another 100 students played the roles of “casualties” or other necessary characters.
To see photos of the event, visit @AuburnRMS on Twitter or search for the hashtag #VCOMDisasterDrill. Several members of the media covered the event extensively including the Opelika-Auburn News and WSFA 12 News of Montgomery. See the full stories below.
Inaugural Disaster Day prepares responders, students for worst, Opelika-Auburn News
Risk Management & Safety, other AU units to participate in VCOM Disaster Simulation & Training Day
On Friday, April 28, Auburn University’s Risk Management & Safety (RMS), several other campus units and local first-responder agencies from the community, will take part in the university’s first ever Disaster Day, hosted by the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn, or VCOM.
“Disaster Day” is an emergency response training and disaster simulation event specifically for second-year VCOM medical students, who will be evaluated that day by VCOM faculty on their ability to respond and triage casualties. More than 150 second-year students will be participating as part of evaluation, while another 100 students will play the roles of “casualties” or other necessary characters.
|VCOM Disaster Day is Friday, April 28|
Members of the media are invited to attend. Interviews
Disaster Day will take place on the VCOM campus at 910 South Donahue Drive, and VCOM classes will be suspended that day as most faculty, staff and students will be participating in the event. Other university units participating will include Auburn University RMS, Auburn University Public Safety, Auburn University ROTC and members of the Auburn University Campus Community Emergency Response Team or Campus CERT. In addition, a few local agencies will also participate, including the Auburn and Opelika Fire Divisions, and the East Alabama Medical Center EMS.
The first disaster simulation of the day will begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by the second disaster scenario beginning at 1:30 p.m. The event is for VCOM faculty, staff and students only, and participating Auburn University units. It is not open to the public.
Though this is the first Disaster Day hosted at the Auburn University campus, this is not VCOM’s first experience with disaster simulation and training as part of student curriculum. The college has two other campuses – one in Virginia and one in South Carolina – where disaster simulations and training are familiar annual events. VCOM students complete online learning modules and then put them into practice during Disaster Day. Disaster simulations give students a closer look at how the environment inside a hospital would be impacted during a mass casualty situation and what type of skills would be expected of them. Upon completion of the modules and Disaster Day, students will receive a Basic Disaster Life Support Certification, or BDLS.
RMS Environmental Health and Safety Technician Michael Freeman planned and formed the disaster scenarios for the event, based off input from VCOM. Freeman, who was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army, and has worked for fire, EMS and law enforcement in the past, said this is the first full-scale disaster simulation the university has had on campus since he arrived in 2006.
“We’ve conducted table-top type drills with Public Safety in the past, and I have helped train the Fire Department on HAZMAT specifics, but this is the first disaster simulation to be held on campus and in conjunction with local agencies,” Freeman said. “We could have done this without the local agencies, but it would not have been as realistic. If you do not practice real-life scenarios, you will not be prepared."
"This disaster simulation training allows our local agencies, university first responders and VCOM students to better understand our individual roles and what we may have to deal with together during a live situation." - Mike Freeman, RMS Environmental Health & Safety Tech
Freeman said VCOM’s Disaster Day will be good not only for those students participating, but for the surrounding communities as well. “This simulation teaches university first responders AND local responding agencies how to work together during the event of a possible disaster,” Freeman said. “The students can also take the skills they’ve learned back out into the communities that they will be working in. This is a multi-layered approach, and we are so appreciative of those local agencies who have made time in their very important schedules to help.”
Local agencies will be involved in the first scenario taking place at 8:30 a.m., while Campus CERT will play a bigger role in the second scenario at 1:30 p.m.
Freeman and VCOM’s Dr. JJ White will appear on WANI 98.7’s Auburn-Opelika This Morning Show on Thursday, April 27, at 8:35 a.m. to talk about Disaster Day. Follow @AURMS to see the live tweets from Disaster Day on April 28.
RMS participates in SGA Town Hall, talks threat reporting & new student rental insurance
|Representatives from various areas of campus participated in the Student Government Association's Town Hall Meeting on Nov. 15, fielding questions of concern from a crowd of more than 40 students. Photo Credit: Kelsey Prather.|
Dining options, residence hall issues and campus safety were topics of concern during the Tuesday, Nov. 15, panel-style Auburn University Student Government Association (SGA) Town Hall Meeting held in the Student Center. This was the first panel discussion held by the SGA in a couple of years, and more than 40 students were in attendance.
Representatives from Auburn’s Risk Management and Safety (RMS), Tiger Dining, Parking Services, Housing and Residence Life, and Public Safety participated in the discussion, listening attentively to student concerns and giving updates on various campus projects of interest. SGA Advisor Brad Smith said the purpose of the Town Hall was to give the student body a chance to voice their opinions to representatives of areas where they traditionally have concerns. A second Town Hall Meeting is planned for spring 2017 and will feature representatives from other areas of the campus.
SGA President Jesse Westerhouse led the panel discussion, reading from a list of previously submitted student questions the SGA had gathered from Auburn Answers. RMS Executive Director Christine Eick and Risk Management Specialist Holly Leverette represented RMS during the discussion.
Risk Management and Safety-related concerns arising from the discussion included the following:
- On the topic of how the university handles campus hate crimes or bias, Associate Director of Public Safety Susan McCallister said the university does not tolerate hate crimes and that any such issues should be reported immediately to Public Safety.
RMS Executive Director Eick also added that the university has a Threat Assessment Team in place to investigate such incidences. The goals of the Threat Assessment Team are to advise on incidents involving members of the university community who pose, or may reasonably pose, a threat to the safety and well-being of themselves or others. Any member of the university community who becomes aware of such a situation can report the matter to the team.
To make a report to the Threat Assessment Team, call 334-844-5010 or email email@example.com.
- On the topic of key issues faced by RMS or any updates, Eick mentioned the relatively new Student and Employee Renter/Property Insurance Program provided to Auburn students, faculty and staff through the Arthur J. Gallagher & Company. The program, designed specifically for college-related audiences, offers deductibles as low as $25, much less than a Homeowner’s deductible. The benefits of the policy includes such things as replacement cost valuation; flood and earthquake coverage; and limited identity theft expense coverage.
“There are different levels of the policy that you can purchase, and it is very affordable,” Eick said. “We are always looking for opportunities to assist students in any way that we can.”
Visit Student and Employee Renter/Property Insurance to learn more about why the program might be right for you or to purchase coverage.
In other updates, Eick said RMS is also working on safety initiatives to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous chemicals used in labs on campus.
Other safety-related topics of interest during the panel discussion:
- McCallister of Public Safety said that date-rape drug concerns are a topic of heavy interest from both students and parents alike. She said victims of date-rape drugs often fail to get the incident reported before the drugs have left their system. Educating students on the topic so they have a better awareness will be a priority going forward.
- In regards to “community policing,” McCallister said that Public Safety is going through some changes, which will include the addition of more police officers from Auburn Police Department on campus. The officers will not be on a rotating schedule as before, however, but will be a staff dedicated specifically to the university. This will allow officers to get more familiar with the university community and to do more outreach.
City of Auburn issues drought warning, tips for staying water wise on campus
Seasonably high temperatures and little rainfall led the City of Auburn in early November to declare a Phase II Drought Warning, which implemented mandatory restrictions as well as surcharge fees for water usage over a set threshold.
The drought is not restricted to Auburn, however, but all across the Deep South, and has spawned wildfires in east Tennessee and north Georgia that have led to smoke being blown into Alabama. The issue has become a national story, according to al.com.
In response to the Phase II Drought Warning, Auburn University Facilities Management has discontinued any university activities that involve washing sidewalks and vehicles, in addition to lowering irrigation levels. The Office of Sustainability and Auburn University Housing and Residence Life requests that students living on campus join the university in preserving drinking water.
The university community should:
- Save water at the sink. Turn off water while you brush your teeth; wash/shave your face; and/or scrub dishes
- Take shorter showers
- Do full loads of laundry instead of partial loads
- Report any water-related issues, such as running toilets, dripping faucets and/or sprinklers watering pavement
Alabama’s Office of Water Resources declared Lee County under emergency drought on Nov. 1, as the majority of the state is either in the same drought level or drought warning. According to The Plainsman, the last time the city implemented a phase II warning was June 2011. The water demand in August and September this year was 20 percent above the average demand for those months. The state’s climatologist predicted last week that 10 to 15 inches of rain will be needed over the next two months to wipe out the drought.
For further tips on how you can help the university and the Auburn community withstand the drought, visit the Office of Sustainability website. For up-to-date reports on the drought conditions, visit Alabama Extension’s new drought response website.
SGA Town Hall Meeting, Nov. 15 - Risk Management & Safety to participate
Representatives from Risk Management and Safety, Dining, Residence Life and Parking Services will participate in the SGA Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. in the Auburn University Student Center. Students will have the opportunity to learn more about these respective areas, and to voice any questions or concerns they might have.
For more information about the Town Hall Meeting, visit Auburn SGA on Facebook.
Auburn University Student Center
255 Heisman Drive
Auburn, AL 36849