USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) conducted a mass casualty drill July 13 as part of a continued commitment to mission readiness.
A mass casualty is any instance in which the level of casualties is greater than the Medical department alone can support.
"This could be anywhere from 10 to 100 people," said Lt. Darcy Guerricagoitia, Enterprise's nurse. "It depends on the injuries, resources and personnel available. It enables us to exercise and evaluate the ship's response during a mass casualty scenario."
During a mass casualty, there are four levels of casualties used by Medical personnel to categorize the injured who are then taken to one of four corresponding triage stations.
"For example, a red casualty requires immediate medical attention and will not survive if not seen relatively soon," said Guerricagoitia. "Any compromise to the casualty's airway, hemorrhage control or untreated shock could be fatal."
Another aspect of a mass casualty event is the activation of the walking blood bank. The walking blood bank is comprised of a minimum of 300 people - or, at least 10 percent of the ship's company - who are enrolled and eligible to donate blood in the event of a mass casualty.
"Right now, we have 333 people enrolled," said Guerricagoitia. "Ideally, everyone would be a member of the walking blood bank. It can save your life and the life of your shipmate."
A mass casualty event doesn't just affect the Medical department, as the cause of such massive damage and injury is generally a ship-wide catastrophe. In addition to Medical, the drill involved the Air Department Training Team and Security. The Medical department hopes to incorporate more departments in the future.
During the drill, several scenarios were played out to test the readiness of the crew. One of these scenarios included an aircraft fire in the hangar bay. After the fire was distinguished, but reflashed injuring 13 people.
"We, the Medical Training Team, are not only evaluating the Medical department's response to the casualties, we are also evaluating the ship's response," said Guerricagoitia.
The main focus of a drill like this is mission readiness and the overall ability of Enterprise to carry out its operational missions in the event of a mass casualty.
"Yes, it is a training requirement to do mass casualty drills," said Guerricagoitia. "It is also important to assess our preparedness as a ship to deal with a mass casualty."
Needless to say, real-life situations like the one played out during the drill are not unheard of. Guerricagoitia believes that it is imperative that the ship's crew be able to act - and act swiftly - in the event that a worst-case scenario occurs.
"This is important," said Guerricagoitia. "There is certainly the potential for it to happen. Communication, participation, knowledge and safety are all important in the drill, and during a real event."
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